Rain Affects

Dear Friends,

In years like this, anyone driving through western South Dakota would think they landed in paradise.  This month (June), we received over ten inches of rain! With the average rainfall for our part of the country being eighteen inches a year, ten in one month is, well… remarkable. 

Equally remarkable is the shifting, moody sky. From orange sunrises, to impressive clouds, to black skies, to rainbows; its quintessential performance has been Oscar worthy.

Prairie Sunrise

The prairie grass is iridescent in the fluctuating light. It ebbs and flows like a sea when pushed by the prairie wind.

Prairie Wild Flowers

Wild flowers bob their heads, daubing the green - with white, yellow, purple and pink.

Prairie Wildflowers

And the water - the water is everywhere. The Cheyenne River is running high, and with a slight roar as it flows to the Missouri.

Stock dams, playas and any indentation in the earth are full after years of, “just enough” to get by. From the air these pools of water glisten like diamonds and if you didn’t know better, you would swear you were looking down at Minnesota.

This past fall, we did some work on our stock dams when they were about dried up. We dug them a little deeper and restructured the levees to improve upon their holding capacity. With this year’s snow run off and initial spring rains - they looked pretty good, but they were nowhere near full. One dam, that required the most repairs, is close to 30 feet deep at the center, and was bone dry until June.


Then a week ago, water came spilling through the overflow pipe as designed.  A day later, all hell broke loose as it came pouring over the top. We decided we should buy a boat.

Bison Herd

It’s also years like this when we wished we had two thousand more buffalo. The bounty of grass-filled-pastures awaits the buffalo like a just replenished salad bar in an empty restaurant.

To mimic part of the grazing process during these rain flush years, we will cut the grass for hay and save it for a non-rainy day (year). We cut in rows, leaving half of the grass in place to provide cover habitat for wildlife. And, we also leave many of the pastures, giving them rest and allowing the dry matter to settle into the earth, creating a healthy dose of organic matter to aid in the soil’s health.

Being a large landscape bison rancher, that manages the land for soil, grass, and overall eco-system health, that has an annual limited rainfall, and balancing that with your animal stocking capacity, is a little like walking a tight rope. Because we are not very good at that - we manage for drought.

Buffalo Herd Summer

Every rancher has been through a drought, and it’s during those years that you have to make a decision to either, buy food for the animals, move the animals, or ship them down the road to a feed yard/slaughter facility. The latter is never an option, and buying hay for 700 animals can get you broke fast. This is when we make the exception to our policy of not moving animals. We will either buy animals from a sourcing partner who is in a drought situation and our grass supply is in abundance, or we will sell animals to a sourcing partner if our pastures became too stressed, and our hay supply would run out. These animals will slowly integrate with the herd and be given a good life, and some may be harvested for food after they grow.

Drought years are not much fun and are hard on the people and the animals, but if managed right the land will always prevail.  

Photography is also a bit more challenging during these times, forcing one to look hard for the prairie magic. However, if you look long enough the dried cotton wood stumps reveal themselves as animals from the brown, barren landscape.So go’s the cycles of the prairie, we love the good and try to be prepared for the bad.

This year, things are good - and so are the people and the animals.

As always, we thank you for your sustainable great taste and support - through the good times and through the tough times. Cheers! jill

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  • In my eyes, there’s not much that’s prettier than western SD during a wet spring/summer ! But I know it doesn’t look as amazing as your grass does unless it has been managed very well during those dryer years. That must be so rewarding ! Seeing those buffalo grazing on those hills like they always have. Some of those photos I’d love to have on my wall ! I really enjoy reading and learning about your approach to the management of those awesome grasslands, the buffalo, and all the ither critters that all it home ! Amazing job all the way around !

    Ben Suthers
  • Thanks for your awesome photos, your commentary is perfect and your information helps me to understand more about the Prarie. I love Toro and the Alligator. I take photos of animals & people int the land, rock, clouds and always wood.

    Take Care!

    Diana Siderides
  • What beautiful pictures Jill.
    I don’t believe I have ever seen it
    so lush. Makes me want to return.

    Susan L Wright
  • Living in the East, I love getting your newsletters and pictures!

    Kathy Jankowski
  • Jill, thank you for another beautiful essay. Last week we spent some windshield time and travelled from our Minnesota lake country to the Badlands of North Dakota. Our experience was the same as you describe. Everything was lush and abundant grass moved in waves across the hills.

    What a marvelous land we live in!


    Rick Sytsma
  • It;s people like you who give me much pleasure in my late years. I’m 95 now Dan, and all my 5 children are in their 60’s. We loved the buffalo roast we had for a reunion. Hard for me to order often anymore, but keep up the good work. Jill those pictures were a treasure.

    eleanor Shimeall
  • Loved the description , pictures, and education, Jill. By the way, as I was reading the comment about bison in Paynes Prairie we were riding by there, but I’ve never been fortunate enough to see any.

    Retha Haddock
    June 29, 2018
    We will be in your area next month, can we stop by?

    Yes, we do offer ranch tours. For details, contact .
    Thank you for your interest!

    Wild Idea Buffalo Co.
  • We are indeed water wealthy and fortunate! So lovely to see these pictures.

    Eirik Heikes
  • As always….uplifting, inspirational, and truly awesome! Thanks, Jill for sharing your beautiful world. Envy abounds on this end!!

    Fee Jacobsen
  • Thank you for sharing this story and the wonderful pictures of abundance with us. Everything green, lush, and the flowing water; all so very encouraging and uplifting to the soul. We have just received another order from Wild Idea and tried the kippered buffalo for the first time. That is WONDERFUL! I think we could make an entire order of just that. Plan to try your barbecue recipe the bison short ribs for the Fourth. Thank you for all you and your family and associates in your company do to provide a wonderful life for the bison, beautiful pictures and stories of the South Dakota plains for our information and enjoyment, and the wonderful products that come from your herd.

    Jerry and Norma Reynolds
  • Just drove through entire state of South Dakota from East to West. Could not believe how green it was!

    Absolutely beautiful. What a great state you have.


    Bruce Green
  • Thank you, a wonderful bunch of raindrops, Jill.

  • Just drove through entire state of South Dakota from East to West. Could not believe how green it was!

    Absolutely beautiful. What a great state you have.


    Bruce Green
  • This is a beautiful photo essay. It made me yearn for the Black Hills and the prairies to the east and south. I used to live very nearby, down the Argyle Road in the Hills, over in Igloo, and way down in Chadron. These essays and photos fill up my heart with gladness.

    Oh, and I’m a customer! I’m feeding a growing 16 year old with your wonderful bison meat, and I am sure it contributes to his glowing good health.


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