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Winter Grazing

It has been a full-blown winter here on the prairie. Since our first snowstorm in early December the snow has continued and the cold temperatures have remained persistent.
Winter on the ranch
The snow is starting to lose its charm and the frigid temps are starting to show in peoples' personalities. The only thing that seems unaffected is the buffalo and the wildlife.

Since November our buffalo herd has been on their winter pasture on the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands. They have 22,000 acres to keep them happy and satiated. We can go weeks without seeing them.  To look out the window at the snow-covered landscape it would make sense to ask, what are they eating? Even without seeing the landscape, we get this question often. 

Buffalo Winter Grazing

For thousands of years, bison roamed over America’s grasslands without our help. They tended to the prairie as if they were the gardeners of a very large lawn, mowing, pruning and fertilizing here and there, keeping the landscape balanced and healthy. 

Our philosophy and practices at Wild Idea Buffalo Company are much the same as what nature intended.  Other than a necessary boundary fence, we allow and want the buffalo to be buffalo, even in the harshest of winter months.   

Bison Winter Grazing

Buffalo are very good at foraging for food. They use their big heads, supported by the big muscles in their neck to push the snow away to get to the vegetation.  

Bison in winter

Per our certification of 100% grass-fed our animals must be on pasture eating the grasses beneath their feet. The only exception to this criterion is for severe, inclement weather, such as heavy snow packed winters or drought. 

Colton Jones

During winter months getting to the buffalo can be difficult and before we can get to them we have to see them. (Spotting 300 head of buffalo in 22,000 acres is like looking for a needle in a haystack.) If all the stars are aligned and we spot them on the bluff from the house, and if Colton is available, he will bring down a bale of hay. The hay is a mixture of grass with a little alfalfa from our pastures in a good grass (rain) year. The bale weighs about a ton (2,000 lbs.) with each buffalo needing about 25 pounds of forage a day. With 300 head of bison this is not so much to feed them, as it is to supplement them with a little snack.

This Tuesday the stars aligned and so I caught a ride with Colton in the tractor. There was fresh snow on the ground and it sparkled like diamonds in the morning light. When the buffalo could hear the tractor they started to spill down to the river bottom from the bluff and then they lined out our way as we got the bale unrolled.

Buffalo in winter

The only sound was about 100 buffalo hooves crushing through snow. 

Bison in snow

 

We watched for a bit while discussing how good they looked. The silence was soon interrupted by chewing and soft grunts, which I interpreted as “thank you”.

By the time I was heading for work in Rapid City, the buffalo had started to climb the bluff where the snow had started to melt. Tomorrows forecast predicts temperatures in the 50’s - a start at thawing the cold on the landscape and in the people.

 

 

 

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59 comments

  • Love the great photos and writing. Thanks for sharing, and a huge THANK YOU for what you are doing!

    Pat O'
  • Looks good!

    Danny Shepherd
  • I love Bison meat. But most of all I love seeing the amazing animals on their natural range! I truly wish they could be as prevalent as they once where in this country, along with Moose, elk, deer, as well as Grizzle Bear, and every other animal that once where! I am very proud of all of you for allowing these Great Beasts their Majestic Dignity and to live the way they were intended to Live! As natural as can be until they are harvested. I wish every livestock Company could follow your lead, by respecting and revering the animals they are in charge of, to be harvested with dignity!!!!!

    K. Wayne Wright
  • Sounds wonderful and glad you are having a good winter. Your feeding technique sounds much like my friends in Southpark CO. They had grazing rights on 2000 acre unfenced subdivision. Their property 40acres was one of spots where underground water surfaced. Their horses were trained to come to call by vehicle horn or evening by grain ration year round. When visiting I was facinated to find resident pronghorns liked to play with vehicles on road. They would parallel and then dart across in front and past at vehicles 20some mph.
    I enjoyed reading about your first years adventures using grasslands pastures in
    “Wild Idea”. You & your Buffalo are definitely being good stewards to the public grasslands and your own.

    Kenneth James
  • Hey, Thanks a lot for your report, from the Badlands! Or shood I say, The Goodlands! Oh to be a buffalo at 50 below. I’ll bet they loved the “snack”! It didn’t look like, the whole herd? Viya con Dios!

    Jerome Ferenc
  • Every prior post expressed my feelings, thoughts and wishes for all of you and those magnificent buffalo.
    Thanks for the memories!!

    Chris Jorgensen
  • Love your product.

    Patricia shepherd
  • Always enjoy a window into your world. It’s like a salve to the soul. Keep up the good work. It’s so important.

    Willadee hitchcock
  • Wow beautiful pictures. Love the story. Glad you saw them.

    Brenda
  • What a lovely update. It gives me such pleasure to see the commitment you your family have toward preserving this amazing creature in the way it was naturally intended.

    With gratitude and honor for all you do.

    Barb in Griffin
  • We love you guys! Thank you for the stories, and all your tireless efforts to bring us the best meat on the planet!

    Jerry and Deanie
  • My favorite line: “For thousands of years, bison roamed over America’s grasslands without our help. They tended to the prairie as if they were the gardeners of a very large lawn, mowing, pruning and fertilizing here and there, keeping the landscape balanced and healthy.” This shows an understanding that is still somehow rare in today’s world. Thank you.

    Michael
  • I love the imagery you conjure: crunch and munch.

    Janis Blimling
  • May your troubles melt as snow before the spring sun. Once again, thank you for your words and pictures.

    pat
  • Wonderfull picrures.lucky you are to be in this wild nature.
    Thank you to preserve this specy in her habitat.

    Pascal

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