Tis the season to check boxes as you make plans for addressing the health, both financial and physical, of your herd and their habitat. If you would rather refer to their habitat as a farm or ranch, I’m fine with that, but at the end of the day it’s a habitat for many living things, including your bison.
One of the most important box checking exercises should happen before you ‘work’ the herd. If you have self-audited the functionality of your handling system in past works, it serves you well to re-visit what you’ve documented and leave enough time to make improvements. Don’t get hung up on the word audit, you can call it a list-of-problems or anything that means: documentation. If you do not self-audit, you might consider it, because you will be amazed what you see and how easy it is to improve. An example of this might be a place in the handling system that the bison consistently make contact with, or hit when they are being worked. Addressing this can be as easy as using cardboard and zip ties to experiment with, to tarp or other ‘opaque’ materials secured to that location. I contend that humane-function serves the business-end of animal operations of any kind, but even more so in bison operations. When addressed and achieved, the efficiency of the operation is upgraded on all levels. Here’s the punch-line – it’s unbelievably easy to do…
Another box to check is feed inventories. This correlates directly with culling decisions, selling decisions and the advantage of resources being ‘bought right’, or conserved, as opposed to being caught short and costing too much. With our extreme weather realities this year, meaning water, there is a trick to considering what hay may actually be worth this year in the southern plains more than in normal years. Feed inventories can also mean standing forage, either cool-season and green, or warm season standing hay depending on your situation. Personally; I am likely to examine my feed value and shoot for a functional level of nutrition that fits my objective. For example; if I am over-wintering bred females, my herd requirements are different than growing young bison. If my objective is to create a perfect environment in which every year is a good year, I need to know what I have, this year, and balance it. The objectives of the model dictate the management and the bison will respond perfectly, as bison, if their needs, as animals, are met. Therefore; another good box to check as you head into winter, is establishing or identifying what your model objectives are.
Your bison are getting ready to over-winter. Their health and your business plan are connected. The boxes you check will have everything to do with success, both theirs and yours.