Working With Nature
Bison are ideally suited for the northern climate found in Canada. Their extra fur cover on the shoulders, plus the extra development of the front half of their body allows them to turn towards the wind and storms of winter. They are also able to push through the snow cover of the prairies with their large head and muscles to find the grass beneath for grazing. And, they require less food in the winter months because their metabolism slows. You won’t find a bison migrating south for the winter!
Ranchers and farmers who raise these animals are quite amazed at their ability to take care of themselves. They must be handled with every respect because they do no behave domestically. Bison are handled much less frequently than other livestock. They are not usually branded nor are they castrated. Bison are a herd animal and cannot be healthy or content without others, but there is still the need to establish who is leader!
Canadian commercial herds are monitored for disease at the time of slaughter by trained and equipped inspectors in federally and provincially inspected abattoirs. Calves are tagged with ear tags that stay with the animal its entire life. This identification number provides a very efficient trace back system for tracking animals from the farm of origin should there be a food safety concern.
What do Bison Eat?
Bison mainly forage on native or tame pasture grasses. Salt licks are provided for minerals. Most bison also eat a combination supplement of grains, hay or silage at specific times. A few farmers raise their animals with a total dependence on grass/pasture rations. Completely grass-fed bison have a yellow-white fat and a slightly different taste.
Prior to breeding, the cows are often given a supplement to help improve fertility. Some U.S. and Canadian farmers, with less land for pasture, begin feeding young bison a supplement grain ration at weaning time and continue to feed grain rations until the meat animals go to market. Most Canadian farmers provide a grain supplement for 90 to 120 days before the meat bulls go to market. The grain makes the fat cover white and takes away any grassy overtone in taste.
The return of the bison to North America’s range and pasture lands means an important part of an ecosystem is back in place, restoring health and balance to the whole system.
Bison Livestock Practice
- NO Growth Stimulants
- NO Growth Hormones
- NO Antibiotics in Feeds
Bison are seldom sick. A producer may use an approved antibiotic to treat an animal. A few producers choose to buy organically grown grains to use in their feeding practices and do not use any artificial fertilizer on their land, thereby qualifying for organic farming certification. Experience has taught producers a great deal about the best management techniques and uniformly they respect and admire the bison for its healthy vigour and stamina.