Bison Producer Training Materials


The restoration of bison to the plains of North America is truly a success story. The bison herds that once numbered in the millions were on the brink of extinction with fewer than 1,000 animals at the end of the 19th century. The bison industry is what it is today because of the combined will of a handful of private ranchers, conservationists and government officials who saved the last remaining animals and began to restore the species in Canada and the United States. This combined will established the foundation to build the bison industry that we have today.

Although bison roamed the plains of North America for centuries, the roots of the commercial bison industry date back to the early 1980s with the inaugural meeting of the Canadian Buffalo Association in 1982. Since that time the industry has learned much about managing bison and bison production. Although there is yet much to learn, the information provided in these chapters is intended to assist producers and new entrants into the industry as well as stakeholders who serve the industry.The various chapters provided here are only the beginning. Information will continually be updated and refined as the industry moves forward. Please provide feedback on the information in the chapters that follow and raise items that you believe require further development.

  1. Canadian Bison – A Brief History
  2. The Bison Industry Today
  3. Planning Your Bison Business
  4. Bison Benchmarks Year Seven
  5. Cost of Production Calculators
  6. Bison Behaviour
  7. Bison Nutrient Requirements
  8. Other chapters are in development.

Canadian Bison – A Brief History

Although much has been written on the evolution of bison, this brief history describes what has transpired since the 1880s. The objective of this chapter is to provide a brief history of the Canadian bison herd, information on bison conservation in Canada as well as information on recent conservation activities.

The Bison Industry Today

Industry optimism has created a new level of interest in the bison production. Not only has there been expansion among present producers, there has been a high level of interest by people wanting to enter the industry. This chapter outlines the economic trends that affect the current bison market.

Planning Your Bison Business

The objective of this chapter is to outline the importance of a plan for your bison business. A well-developed plan increases your business chances of success as well as your ability to capitalize your business. The plan need not be complex but it should be documented. A plan can be shared with others in the business so that everyone understand the direction of the business.

Bison Benchmark Project – Year Eight

The objective of this chapter is to provide producers and those interested in the bison industry with production and performance data that has been provided by producer. This information can be used to refine business plans for those getting into the industry or those expanding their businesses.

Cost of Production Calculators

The objective of this chapter is to provide bison producers with tools for decision-making to maximize profitability in their cow-calf and finishing operations. With the tools you will be able to evaluate the impact on changes to your business based on your data and benchmark information. The Forecaster Tool will allow producers with the ability to evaluate the impact of changes in the size of operation and changes in costs and the impact on net returns. These tools are intended to assist in decision making recognizing that several other variables are important in producer decision-making.

Evaluating the Impact of Changes to Your Bison Management Program

Like other sectors, changes in the bison industry are constant. The cost of animals, the cost of feed and pasture, the prices you receive and the number of animals you have under your management are always changing.

To evaluate the impact of changes to your business are evaluated relative to benchmark information. Two cost-of-production calculators have been developed – cow-calf operation and a bison finishing operation. The benchmark information utilized in the calculators will be updated annually with information provided for operations of less than 100 head and more than 100 head.

Description of Forecaster - What-if? - Tool

After a producer has inputted their costs and production details needed to calculate their cow-calf bison cost of production, they can use the FORECASTER TOOL worksheet to make percentage changes to a number of variables to see how break-even and net returns change.

In the yellow cells of the Forecaster Tool, enter the predicted % change (- or +).The Total $, $/Breeding Stock, $/Lb. of Weaned Calf columns will adjust to reflect the new projections.Variable costs (only) are automatically revised to reflect changes in cow numbers.Additional changes in Variable and Capital costs can be made in the blue cells in the FORECASTER TOOL worksheet.

Bison Behaviour

The objective of this chapter is to introduce bison producers and bison handlers to bison behaviour so that they can be handled safely. It also provides information on bison behaviors and what those behaviours normally signal to other bison and the people around them.

Bison Nutrient Requirements

The objective of this chapter is to ensure that bison producers are aware of the importance of minerals and vitamins in bison diets. Preventing the consequences of mineral deficiencies is important. Once a deficiency is identified, it will take time for the bison to recover and result in significant economic losses.

The Bison Producers Handbook

The Bison Producers Handbook is a comprehensive book that is packed with information for veteran bison producers and newcomers alike. Industry experts collaborated to develop nearly 300 pages of useful, readable information on all aspects of bison marketing and production. This book comes FREE with an Active, Associate, Friend of the Industry or Student Membership. To join the CBA click here.

Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Bison: Review of Scientific Research on Priority

The development of the Bison Code of Practice began with a review by the Scientific Committee review of priority bison welfare issues. The Scientific Committee developed a report synthesizing the research results related key animal welfare issues. The report of the Scientific Committee is considered an important source of information about the handling and management of bison. To access the report click here.

The Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Bison

The Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Bison replaces its predecessor developed in 2001 and published by the Canadian Agri-Food Research Council (CARC). The Codes of Practice are nationally developed guidelines for the care and handling of farm animals. They serve as our national understanding of animal care requirements and recommended practices. Codes promote sound management and welfare practices for housing, care, transportation, and other animal husbandry practices.

The information in the Code is as a result of a rigorous Code development process, taking into account the best science available for each species, compiled through an independent peer-reviewed process, along with stakeholder input. The Code development process also takes into account the practical requirements for each species necessary to promote consistent application across Canada and ensure uptake by stakeholders resulting in beneficial animal outcomes. Given their broad use by numerous parties in Canada today, it is important for all to understand how they are intended to be interpreted.

Requirements - These refer to either a regulatory requirement or an industry imposed expectation outlining acceptable and unacceptable practices and are fundamental obligations relating to the care of animals. Requirements represent a consensus position that these measures, at minimum, are to be implemented by all persons responsible for farm animal care. When included as part of an assessment program, those who fail to implement Requirements may be compelled by industry associations to undertake corrective measures or risk a loss of market options. Requirements also may be enforceable under federal and provincial regulation.

Recommended Practices - Code Recommended Practices may complement a Code’s Requirements, promote producer education, and can encourage adoption of practices for continual improvement in animal welfare outcomes. Recommended Practices are those that are generally expected to enhance animal welfare outcomes, but failure to implement them does not imply that acceptable standards of animal care are not met.

The Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Bison is considered a must read as it is a valuable tool for both current and new producers. For an electronic copy of the code click here.

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