Ladies and gentlemen, we are now bison ranching!
We have finally achieved a goal I have been working on for nearly 10 years! Just over two weeks ago, our first live bison were delivered to our ranch just over the Tetons. I wanted to wait just a bit, to ensure that they adapted, and that our systems (fencing, water, etc..) were working well before I shared all the details, but so far, everything is going really well. We bought 10 yearling bulls (approximately 2 years of age) from our friends at the Watertown Bison Ranch in Amherst, Nebraska, and they were kind enough to trailer and drive them out to us in Idaho.
When they first arrived, we held them in our holding pen for a few days in order to get them acclimated to the area, and become familiar with the location of their water and supplemental hay. Within a short time, they had begun grazing and drinking, and after less than 2 hours, they had calmed down enough to relax, lay down and ruminate (digest via their 4 chambered stomachs).
After a few days, it was time to let them out into the rest of the ranch. I had scouted the perimeter, removed a ton of tumbleweeds from the wires, made sure all the posts were in working order, and fired up the electric fence energizer. I was excited to see them out in the wide open, and for the fruition of a nearly decade long project, so it was going to be a big swing of the gate. I carefully made my way through the pen to the gate to the pasture, and opened it up. The bison weren't quite sure what to make of it at first, but their eyes were immediately drawn to the lush green just outside the pen, and hesitantly made their way to it and started grazing. That lasted about 60 seconds, and that is when they all raised their heads, looked at each other, and took off running.
Although my heart dropped a bit when they bolted, it was very, very cool. The power and majesty of these animals is something to see. Bison at full sprint, across open grass here in the Rocky Mountains just makes sense, like the continuation of a very long story.
It's been nearly two weeks since I let them have free range of the pasture, and already they have adapted to life in the Tetons. They have explored the entirety of the ranch, and return regularly to the open holding pen. They know that they have water and a mineral supplement there, so a new, smaller version of the migratory life of bison has begun at the ranch. I set up a game camera in the pen, positioned next to their waterer, and have gotten some pretty cool shots, like this one:
And this one:
I hope to set up more cameras, and bring you more cool info as the summer goes on, and we learn the ins and outs of raising buffalo. Thanks for reading, and keep an eye out for more blog posts to come!