Dan O'Brien Answers Your Questions
- From Chris: What are your top five ranching/ecology/outdoors books? Top five literary works?
Chris, Many books have influenced my thinking. Choosing five is difficult but here goes:
*Aldo Leopold’s, Sand County Almanac
*Theodore Roosevelt’s, Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail
*Daniel Licht’s, Ecology and Economics of the Great Plains
*Lewis and Clark, The Journals Of
*David Quamman’s, Song of the Dodo, Island Biogeography in the Age of Extinction
- From Crista: Can people make arrangements to visit the ranch? If not, can you make some suggestions for ways for people, armed with a car and some free time in your local area, to get an understanding of how important a restored grassland is, and how important the buffalo are in that effort?
Crista, Yes visitors are welcome at our ranch. You can book a tour through Wild Idea. Come for a visit and we will talk through it all.
- From John: Dan, is it possible to raise beef using your model and if so would there be a noticeable difference in taste?
John, I think it might be possible to raise beef cattle in a way that simulates the influence of buffalo on the Great Plains. However, because they did not evolve on the Plains the impact would be incomplete and inferior. They are two different animals and with very different evolutionary histories. For me the taste of “grass-fed” beef seems like a cheap imitation of the real thing. Do a taste test and see for yourself.
- From Rosanne: I love what Dan is doing with buffalos, pictures, writing, prairie…However, as a person on a budget, I just can’t justify spending so much on meat, even though it’s leaner-better quality. I just don’t know how to get around this. Any ideas?
Rosanne, You bring up a great point, but raising bison in our large landscape, whole ecosystem model, and field harvesting - simply costs more. With that said, we would like to see all people EAT LESS MEAT. Save that category of calories for small portions of meat that is healthy for you, the environment, and your pocket book (less trips to the doctor).
- From Prairie Wind: Do people think they know you after reading your books or a book?
Prairie Wind, Yes, sometimes. Of course the memoirs are meant to represent me as a person. It is when people begin to believe that they are getting to know me when they read the fiction that things get interesting – and sometimes humorous. I think that most of us do that when we read. It is usually innocent enough, but we need to be careful not to get fictional characters confused with the author. The fictional characters are almost always more interesting than the person who created them.
- From Lee: Dan, as you deal with a wide spectrum of people and their understanding of the prairie ecosystem, what question or topic have you found that situates a person on that spectrum so that you can have a meaningful conversation with her or him at a starting point for discussion?
Lee, I think that it helps to let people know that the prairie ecosystem, while more fragile than most, is basically like all other ecosystems. That it is dynamic, but is meant to change slowly and it needs to be complete to function properly. In that way it is like whatever ecosystem in you live in.
- From Dawn: Do you have any idea how many bison herds are raised in the manner which you advocate? Is there a list someplace to tell us who’s who in the bison meat industry?
Dawn, There are a handful of operators that we work with/source from, whose criteria of ranching mirrors ours. Other than that, if there are people who have rejected most of the industrial agriculture’s conventions, as we have, I don’t know them. Most other operations I know of will sacrifice quality, sustainability and humane treatment for a few extra bucks above what is reasonable.
- From Shelly: Is it safe to eat the Bison raw out of the package?
Shelly, You bet. I, and many of our customers, love it raw.
- From Isabelle: Can we find your buffalo’s meat soon in France?
Isabelle, We would love to offer our buffalo meat in France and other countries. However, shipping frozen meat to the EU is another complicated endeavor. And, to be honest, our supply is not enough to cover the US market. But, maybe someday...
- From Greg: Hi Dan. Wondering if still do any prairie grouse hunting?
Greg, I sure do. One of the reasons I’ve been doing all of this sustainable buffalo stuff is because it encourages the populations of ground nesting birds. Hunters support our efforts. They, like me, have a dog in the fight for healthy Great Plains habitat. Hunting grouse is my golf.
- From Blake: In your careful management of the land and the bison, knowing how you view the ecosystem, do you adhere to strict organic methods concerning the grasses and forbs? Do you find it unnecessary to provide additives in whatever form for regeneration of the fields each year on a running basis? (thinking manure-based).
Blake, The answer to your questions is yes, but we feel we go beyond the list of “organic” criteria. We look at the process spiritually and with humanity. Buffalo are very different from hogs or chickens. Large landscapes are different from the small farms that organic certification was set up to improve. There are movements afoot to better certify buffalo and other large landscape operations. We have no need for artificial additives and do not use them.
- From Adam: What is your advice for our children and grandchildren to be good stewards of the land?
Adam, The place to begin is to talk about overpopulation and over consumption. If our children don’t learn those simple equations, none of the subtleties matter.
- From Khloe: What is your favorite buffalo dish to eat?
Khloe, I honestly like it all, but a braised buffalo roast haunts my dreams!
- From Luke: What has been your biggest learning curve since transitioning from beef to buffalo ranching?
Luke, The toughest part of the learning curve for me was tweaking, in my own mind, our assumptions of profit and growth. The old saying: "take what you need and leave the rest" has very little traction in our world of business. We at Wild Idea are trying to show that we are here for the long vision. Those are the words that we can survive with.