Home For The Holidays
A few weeks ago, we moved the buffalo into the pasture that borders the Cheyenne River in preparation for moving them onto their winter pasture on the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands. Each time we do this, I am reminded of the first epic event that took place 14 years ago.
In order to allow our buffalo to cross the Cheyenne River to graze on the national grasslands (the buffalo’s former home for thousands of years), we first had to petition the Forest Service to include the American Bison as an allowed grazing species. Until then, they were not on the list.
We then had a grand celebration in honor of the buffalo returning to the home they hadn't been on for over 150 years. Friends, customers and Native American neighbors dressed in regalia showed up for the event. There were horses with riders, drums and songs and a whole lot of emotion. In short, it was awesome!
Over time, the buffalo have intuitively come to know when it's time to cross the river and moving them has become relatively easy. And over time, the crowd has thinned.
This year our crew consisted of daughter Jilian and husband Colton with new baby Barret (his first buffalo moving experience) in the lead truck, loaded with an alfalfa/mineral cake to encourage the bison to follow. In charge of the backend of the herd in a side-by-side ATV, was Dan and now savvy buffalo mover, 3-year-old grandson Lincoln.
The buffalo were about a mile from the river as the crow flies, with pockets of them tucked into the higher hillside. We were loosing light and I was hoping to capture a short video when we got to the river.
Jilian and Colton pounded the pick-up in a drum like fashion and called “come buffers, come buffers” as they released the alfalfa cake, and Dan and Lincoln zigzagged the hillside picking up the stragglers.
A group of cake lovers followed the truck closely, with the mass of the herd being brought up by Dan and Lincoln.
I tried to stay ahead, wanting to secure a position by the river. Before my last gate, a beautiful buck rose up from the grass that kept him hidden and with one graceful leap jumped the fence. Wow! Exhilarated, I headed for the river and hoped I wouldn’t get stuck. The clouds were starting to blush as the light continued to slip, but it was beautiful. And even without all the fanfare it was awesome!
Here’s a short video that shows a bit more of the process. Although it’s not so good, I hope you enjoy it. Cheers! jill
Thanks for sharing the experience. I know that spot on the river. I think Colton came to my aide with a tractor! Miss those adventures.
THANKS YOU FOR ALL YOU DO FOR THE BUFFALO AND FOR US – MAKES ME FEEL PROUD TO BE, IN MY OWN SMALL WAY, A PART OF IT.
I once saw hundreds of thousands of wildebeest entering the Masai Mara from Tanzania. As I looked at the black dots moving across miles of grassy plains, the hair spontaneously stood on my neck and I thought “My God, this is what America used to look like” and tears of thrill, sadness and joy welled I wanted to say it aloud for my wife to hear but my voice wouldn’t work and I was embarrassed that I was near losing my composure over something I couldn’t explain. Thanks for bringing even a little of that back.
Victor Birdsong: Apologies for my delay. There are all kinds of range cake. We use alfalfa and kelp range cake. Both are organic. We do not feed either on a regular basis. We only use as a tool in moving the buffalo. The American Grass-fed and Organic standards allow for alfalfa/kelp/mineral cake and amount fed must be less than .5% of their body weight. If a buffalo’s weight was 1,000 pounds that would be 5 lbs. per each buffalo per day. For us it is more like 5 pounds per year.
The children look so beautiful, happy and healthy. I wish I had their fantastic experience. The video is marvelous. Thanks