Southern Plains Bison Pointers September 2017
Fall is here. Summer is gone, and we won’t know which old-man-winter (we get) until we are right in the middle of it. The Southern Plains can be wildly different than the northern regions as far as planning and caring for our bison. I always comedically contend; that if bison could talk, they would be pressing on the fences in the north about Christmas time and saying, “how are we supposed to get to Texas?” That being worth what it cost, and not intended to exclude other regions in the south, it also intends to illustrate the difference between our ability to grow feed all year long. So – September and October are the months of action if you wish to upgrade the green feed available to your herd through the winter. There is still time to plan and plant.
Many herds will see calves in the south this time of year, which (may) be a result of a rush of nutrition available to the bison in February through March. This scenario represents a normal plant community cycle in the southern plains in most regions. It also (may) be a result of parasite loads adversely affecting the female’s natural function by the time late summer and early fall arrive, which would produce the norm for calving in May (ish). These animals are a perfect reflection of their habitat and habitat management. Personally; I consider a late calf, a cow half full – rather than half empty.
Parasites can also be a ferocious antagonist to herd health as the bison build energy reserves and resilience in preparation for old man winters wrath. The parasite species that can cause weight loss and productivity issues in the warm season, can complicate the onset of the normally occurring ‘cool-season’ parasites that will build populations and then become arrested in the system of the bison through the winter – waiting for the second cool season, or spring. Personally I contend that a double worming strategy in the fall (may) help. By this I mean worming in the pasture, with knowledge and targeted parasites, thereby reducing the populations to kill through the chute during the months we wisely choose to work our herds, as opposed to the ‘not-ok-corral’ times when we have mostly young calves and the social dynamics of breeding are in full swing. The parasite issue becomes complicated in the south because we remain in a spring and/or fall cycle through most of the winter. We can be warm and wet = warm season, and we can be cool and moist, or wet = cool season. We can remain green and growing as well which we think may be one of the triggers for parasites tucked away in their over-wintering bison-vessel.
We watch our herd health in certain times of the year, and the most important time of the year is during seasonal transitions. Many of the scenarios and realities in bison parasites are only now becoming a matter of evidence, and a matter of ‘what we think we know’. We can observe the hair coat as one of our best herd-health indicator instruments. If you have individuals in the herd still carrying last year’s winter tags, you may have problems in those individuals. If their new winter coat is not yet coming in very strong, again, this (may) signal herd-health problems.