The Great Plains are enormous – about 32 million acres – but they are not limitless. In fact, the vast majority of the land that was once a healthy, bio-diverse buffalo range is now taken up by industrial agriculture – crop production, feedlots, and cattle grazing. There are only a few places where large-landscape, free-roaming buffalo husbandry is possible and the cost of that land exceeds its value when figured on a production analysis basis. No entity – non-profit conservation groups, wealthy individuals, or government agencies – has enough money to expand the modern buffalo range to a meaningful size. Those of us who are interested in that goal must turn to a realistic economic model that can create a cash flow that is up to the tasks of 1) operating large-landscape buffalo ranches and 2) gathering the necessary capital for expansion to the limits of the realistically available land.
The huge buffalo herds of the pre-European Great Plains were kept in balance by large predators – mostly grey wolves and Native Americans – but also grizzly bears and mountain lions. All of those natural culling forces are gone. In their absence, and without the advent of new forces, modern buffalo herds would over populate their range to the point of ecosystem destruction in a few years – long before enough capital could be accumulated to acquire new land. The thoughtful and humane harvest of the excess buffalo mimics the effect of those natural forces. Selling the healthy red meat that would have gone to the large predators to modern people in search of healthy, truly grass-fed buffalo meat is the best, and perhaps the only, way to finance the recovery of America’s great buffalo herds.
JULY 9, 2014 AT 2:01 PM
I like that Dan. I have old school mates near where you are and when I mention preservation of all forms of natural predators, they tell me I’m way off base and they don’t want their dogs, horses, or herds preyed on by the large predators. Of course the buffalo were an equalizer, but even then the calves and old/sick were culled by natural means.
I’m happy to eat the product of your culling! Kepp them coming.
JULY 10, 2014 AT 8:43 AM
Dan, You are doing the Buffalo a favor by increasing the herd. You are an advertisment for healthy animals which will encourage other rnchers to follow suit. The selling of the meat is the only way this sustainable ranching is going to work, you have to make a living. Keep working and we’ll keep buying. Doug/Denmark Twp, MN
JULY 10, 2014 AT 11:00 AM
Dan: I completly agree but you did not finish the story! I was waiting for the “so what”! Along this line of inquiry, what needs to be done-now and in the future? This could be the topic for a new book by you to my view! In the meantime why not consider raising the prices of what you sell and if not-why?
JULY 10, 2014 AT 3:16 PM
Amen! Keep up the good work.
JULY 12, 2014 AT 5:18 AM
You’re doing a great job Dan, what you’re doing is what I would like to do but here in Iowa. I would like to visit you sometime.
JULY 28, 2014 AT 2:19 PM
Dan – The world needs more . . . a lot more . . . people like you! Your ethical and moral commitment to our land and sustainable large-landscape, free-roaming buffalo husbandry is truly fantastic. Thanks for trying to make our health and our lives better. Can’t wait to read your new book!
DECEMBER 4, 2014 AT 4:21 PM
Dan O’brien is a legend.