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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

  • I loved hearing about the bison in Winter and the pictures are amazing too. Thank you for sharing this, it is so nice to see where our wonderful meat is coming from.

    Jeannette Hall
  • Thank you for this beautiful “update” on how the Big Guys are doing this winter! I so enjoy your posts, sharing the greatness of nature and its wonderful creatures with us! Sending love and greetings and wishes for continued well-being to you and your family, two-legged and four-legged from Germany!

    Sybille Crane
  • What a way to spend the winter months of snow & Ice…Truely amazing Animals…!!!

    john collier
  • yes thank you so interesting i know that Buffallo are very resilient animals so that is good

    Ann Smith
  • Thank you for this info. It makes purchasing your products even more worth while.

    Denis Harden
  • Majestic animals , thank you for the wonderful sustinence that you provide to us , both wildideabuffalo & the animals themselves !

    Mike Matson
  • Excellent article. Plains are an under appreciated eco-system. Thank you for the insights.

    John Gee
  • Thanks for this story and wonderful photos! What magnificent, majestic and perfect stewards of the grasslands the bison are ! Looking forward to the next update. Keep up the great work !

    Bob Jacobson
  • Always love your heart-warming stories about the buffalo. Such a loving story. You and your efforts for their health and ours are so very much appreciated. Buffalo are truly wonderful creatures. Thanks for sharing the beautiful pictures.

    Judie Maxfield
  • Thanks for the updates in the life of your beautiful buffaloes!

    Ann Jarboe
  • Thanks for the pics and info.

    Verlene Montgoery Hawker
  • Thank you for sharing this information. Yes, stay warm.

    Sarah
  • Thanks for the insight! Wonderful story – wonderful pics!
    Stay warm!

    Liz Aicher
  • Very nice story.

    Stacey

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