Monday, July 9, 2012

Durham Buffalo Ranch

On Tuesday while “S” sat in class all day, I went on another bus trip. This time to an American bison/buffalo ranch in Gillette.  Our bus followed the feed truck into the area where all the buffalo were grazing.  The feed truck is like the ice cream truck to us.  All the herd (2,500 of them) came running after the truck which comes once a day with a special treat that looks like a cork.  It has special vitamins and vegetables to help with their over all health.  2 pounds of this special treat is brought for each cow, calf, and bulls, but it is first come first served.  The truck zig zags in the field dropping the treats as it goes.  Never knew buffalo could run so fast.  Our ranch guide said they use trucks when they have to herd the buffalo instead of horses.  Buffalo are very athletic and can run 30-40 miles an hour and jump very high over fences. 

This ranch has 1200 breading age cows (oldest being 19) and 75 bulls (between ages 2 and 5).  The calves are born in April or May, weighing about 60 pounds. They are normally weaned in November. Excess heifers are sold as breeding stock to other ranchers. Bulls not needed for breeding are grain fed and harvested for meat when they reach 16-22 months.  Cow are also checked for pregnancy in November.  Cows are only forgiven once in 5 years for not having a calf.  After that they are gone!  Bulls in the fall of their 5th birthday are trophy hunted because they are hard to manage and are very destructive. 

Very interesting and a fun day.

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The last full week before Thanksgiving, the buffalo are brought in to be checked and sorted.  The heifers are guided into this upright machine.  Once their head comes thru, the machine tightens around their neck.  Each heifer has a chip in their ear canal that has all of the cows data.  In 45 seconds the vet is able to ultra sound the cow to see if she is pregnant and how far along.  The cows also get weighed, has a checkup and chip is updated.

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