Jack Spirko recently had an interview with Tim Frasier from frasierbison.com and it left me with a few questions. I am wondering if anyone here has experience with bisons. Maybe you can answer those for me?
Can bisons be electric fence trained like cattle? He talked about not needing such a high fence but not if it is possible to go with an electric wire a la Salatin.
Do bisons browse trees? I am wondering if they could be put in an orchard.
Can they browse through snow? Obviously, they do in nature but I wonder how much snow they can take, being from East Canada, we get our fair share.
I do not have any experience with buffalo, other than eating and watching. With this in mind, here are some thoughts.
I think that buffalo are extremely hardy and should be able to live in all but the harshest conditions. The buffalo in Yellowstone do fine with the snowfall there. As long as adequate food is available, they should be able to browse through some snow.
Bison milk.... that might be an interesting process. I would guess that if you are brave enough to get it, you can drink it. In my opinion, its similar to badger's milk, lol.
As far as electric fence training buffalo, I have reservations about that, but no experience,
Here is a link that discusses buffalo (a short paragraph about rotational grazing).
I have known people who have been around them in captivity. They are a wild, powerful animal and infrastructure and techniques meant for cattle will be completely inadequate in many ways. These creatures can weigh a full ton and they stampede easily....breaking fences, gates, trailers, etc. A bull can tuck his head and horns up against the side of a full-size pickup truck and flip it neatly over! That being said, bison ranching is being done, and the meat, hides, etc. find a ready market. Given enough range, they are very self reliant, even through severe winters; but they also respond well to supplemental feed.
Hugo Deslippe : Several years ago a Columbian drug-lord created his own Zoo and imported hippos !
The drug lord is dead, the zoo has gone bust and the hippos are roaming free around rivers / river valleys in Columbia !
With that in mind I doubt that you could get an export license to import American Bison to Japan, also there is the question if the type of Brucellosis they are carriers
for -can infect cattle exposed to them ! American Bison will successfully cross breed with Cattle, all bison alive today have more ''Cattle'' DNA in them, then Todays
Homo Sapiens has Neanderthal DNA !
There is a type of Buffalo found in herds within Canada proper that are considered to be a different 'branch' of the American Bison and as such are called '' Woods Buffalo !
Having said that, if I had to make a success out of Raising them I would attempt to cross them with one of the 2/3rds sized heartier breeds ! Big AL!
Success has a Thousand Fathers , Failure is an Orphan
you caught me! I trade cannabis in Japan, and since the market is wide open, I got rich very quick, very rich. Now, I'm planning on having an exotic zoo with animals like bisons, giraffes and cockroaches.
Seriously, though, even though I presently am in Japan, I'll move back to Quebec next spring and I'm preparing my move. I already have a contact in my village who raised bisons but had to stop for health reasons. I doubt he did it the permaculture way though, hence my questions. The more mundane questions like where to get animals, and where to sell the meat, I'll ask him. Apparently he loved his bisons so I'm fairly certain he will be more than happy to teach all I need to know.
But my questions are because I also want an orchard and I will have about 5 acres of land. (I plan on borrowing/ renting my neighbors' land if I need to and I make enough money to justify it) So I could have access to up to 100 acres, if the price is good.
I would need a way to control them and I'm liking Salatin's model of no permanent structures....
Oh well, if no one know, I guess I will need to call in questions to Jack Spirko's expert council.
Hey all, Tim Frasier here on bison/ buffalo. My wife should get the credit for helping me know there was some interest and conversation around this topic. Before I chime-in in with my advise, let me preface with a caveat. As a consulting bison specialist, I have learned that there are many perspectives about raising and housing American bison and I find that they are all true. I also find that the basics always apply, which means that if a perspective is dramatic and extreme, the whole thing can be made much simpler and with less drama with the benefit of more information. I have had the good fortune to meet many-many bison in many different situations and ranch/habitat paradigms, and I can honestly say I have never met a buffalo I didn't like They are all very common sense and logical beings to work with, and they are extremely honest in their behavior. bison are_ wild, no matter the habitat or ranch/habitat paradigm, but as a wild-thing, they are the most amenable of all I have encountered.
On the electric fence subject - I sense that I may have conveyed that message in a way that caused some efficacy issues. Bison management can_ be enhanced through the use of electric fence, but theres more to it. #1) in an article I wrote for the Texas Bison Journal called; Where the Buffalo [Don't] Roam, I refer to the four basics: Food - Family - Water & Common Sense. These are the 4 elements of bison containment with the 4th element regarding the human-element for the bison. Electric fence alone is a bad idea and there are twists to it's application. A good solid fence for bison, in my experience, is 5' 3" to 6' for perimeters and lower for internal cross fencing.
On milking bison: No! That being said, I have done it along with many others, and it's not difficult if you have a [bison] chute. The confusion is usually around buffalo mozzarella which is made from the milk of bubilus bubilus [spell check?] or water buffalo which is actually an Old-World buffalo species. Bison are bison bison and not scientifically accurately referred to as buffalo. Buffalo is a French word that stuck, and today it is correct pop culture to use buffalo and bison both for North American Bison.
On browsing: Bison browse, which refers to eating woody species [trees & shrubs] and it turns out that they browse quite a bit. Seasonally here in the southern plains, we have evidence to support [fecal analysis] that the browse can go as high as 40% of their diet. The [Wood Bison] is an example of an [eco-type] that developed in large part because of browsing.
Yellowstone Bison & snow: We call the behavior during times of big snow-fall [shoveling]. Bison use their beards and large musculature through the front end for this behavior that allows clearing snow for the grasses and forbs beneath.
Facilities: This is the big misconception based in perception and not reality. You need to get certain features of any and all handling facilities correct, but the [right] part of that comment means to harvest their [existing] behaviors as opposed to dominating them like many do with cattle. One of my specialties is [least-cost] humane handling facility design and humane handling education. Many of the stories out there about the destructive nature and high drama in handling bison, all comes with the approach to working them. You don't work them. You set up the facility so they work you and escape to exactly where you need them. We have the opposable thumb and they fall for it every time. The later might infer to some, that we are smarter than them. I contend we are simply smart enough to know not only how smart they are, but [how] they are smart there is more to read about how easy bison [can] be if you Google [bison consultation] Also if there are small property owners looking at being in the American icon biz, you should check out my permaculture consultant at Texas EcoLogix - texasecologix.com - I have a customer testimonial on his site from my bison operation.
My homeowners/farm insurance had issues with Bison (I have 300 acres).
They wanted me to get additional insurance.
Bison do not respect the fences as much as "cows".
However, a local was able to suspend blankets over the fence, and keep the Bison in.
In general, a barbed wire fence cannot really even hold a cow back, it's just that a cow will respect the fence (usually). Bison have far less respect for the fence. They will go thru it to eat a sapling on the other side. So, you've got to have much better fences.
The insurance issue is a state law issue, if "my" cow is run over by a car, and causes damage to the car, I'm responsible. Same goes for other property damage.
Therefore....the cows are owned by a man who owns zero land....lol.....(..every law has unintended consequences).
With respect, and a coming caveat once again, I would take Mr Graham at his word, but this is every day at the office for me. The caveat is: Bison are [not] for everyone. I subscribe to this truth, because the #1 basic element of housing bison is...... the human element and common sense. I would also suggest that anyone who wants to see what can be proven, can get a glimpse into the bison reality by going to texasecologix.com and look closely at the background for the very modest fence that has held bison without issue. Containability rests squarely on; the bison you get, the feed inside the fence and the behavioral triggers that apply as a twist in containment response compared to cattle. Bison are more intelligent than cattle, therefore more curious. Sometimes their curiosity can be problematic, unless the fence contains visual features that prevent the behavior turning destructive from our perspective. The sapling across the fence represented the opportunity to browse, and the fence construction offered no challenge. In my experience bison respect fence [more] than cattle. They just see fence differently. Cattle wear fences down by interacting with them in precarious position for a bite. Bison are less likely to do this, and if we just understand them, can set up a modest fence that easily contains them. I testified to the House and Senate in the 83rd Texas legislature on behalf of bison being included in the Ag Code for protection under the Estray laws as livestock. Our main resistance was the Texas Sherriffs Association who's argument was they didn't want to deal with the species. This was a hard argument to make in light of the fact that that year in Texas, reporting more bison farms than any state in the union, there were zero reported cases of stray bison. This out of 618 bison farms, and in combination with thousands of reported cattle gone astray. If you have cattle and they get out, it's just another day in rural America. If you have bison and they get out, it makes national news. We were successful with the legislation, a great day for Texas bison, and had a bill signing ceremony with a live bison on the steps of the state capital. Many state regard bison as livestock, either as a matter of rule or as a classification. In cases like Mr. Grahams insurance situation, I can be helpful to the point of almost guaranteeing success in changing the dynamics.
The caveat: Bison are not for everyone. That is true and perfectly fine, just don't blame this amazing animal, that is amazingly amenable for issues caused by the human element. As a community predisposed to permaculture strategies and forward thinking, within the community there is an [it] to get, and a paradigm shift requiring thought and dedication. It is also true that permaculture is more ecologically enhancing, restorative and symbiotic. For these reasons and theses, bison are perfect for the paradigm. Once you decide that bison are_ for you, they always work without issues, because you want them to. The opposite is also, always true..
Just a thought for what I hope is a new community of friends for bison. All interested in proof that is evidentiary might consider going to allaboutbison.com and recieving our free newsletter. We report all the news every month, globally, about bison. We call the newsletter, the Buffalo Drum News for many reasons. The past Drums are archived on the website and you can look for your self, on this subject and many others, whats going on in the bison world. We engage all news, even if we don't like it. It's about causing conversations that lead to enlightenment.
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