Do Bison Need Shelter?
Bison, commonly referred to as the American Plain Buffalo, are not only native to the Great Plains and the Midwest but also once roamed the mountain slopes and valleys of Pennsylvania. The state’s last native bison was shot in 1801. Commercial breeders and bison enthusiasts have since reintroduced bison to Pennsylvania.
The northeastern United States has nearly 175 domestic herds with a total of over 3800 bison.
Although bison still have many of their wild tendencies and are only semi-domesticated, they are an agricultural alternative that may be appropriate for some small-scale and part-time farm. Bison adapt to a wide range of environments, feed sources, and management systems.
A herd should consist of at least one bull and 10 to 15 cows. In Pennsylvania, herd sizes range from small operations with fewer than 25 bison to large operations with more than 200 bison. However, most Pennsylvania herds average only 16 animals. Only a few U.S. herds have more than 1000 animals.
What is Shelter Required for Bison?
The answer to this is Bison are very Hearty and Easily Live Outdoors. Because they can face storms and may appear to become dormant during heavy snowfall. They will lie down during heavy snow and let the snow cover their bodies. Predators are also of little concern as the herd will defend themselves. They will circle the predator and drive it from their domain.
Bison During the Winter Seasons?
- Generally speaking, bison tend to winter well in larger pastures. During typical South Dakota winters, bison can usually meet their water need if adequate clean snow is available. However, in dry, cold winter without snow cover bison will require access to fresh water. Water needs can be met via natural wetlands and riparian areas, as long as the water stays open.
- Managers should monitor the use of large or deep water bodies as bison can easily break through thin ice.
- Regardless of the source, managers should ensure a constant source of water to guarantee the bison’s needs are met since water is the first limiting nutrient in the diet.
- A bison on the winter range requires no manmade shelter because of its dense coat.
- Consideration of bison’s strong social hierarchy is important. Overall adequate forage is important, but providing enough pasture space is also necessary to reduce stress from the competition and will also reduce damage to fences and gates.
Fencing is Necessary for Bison?
Fencing is most important for Bison. Because bison can jump fences and breakthrough almost any barrier, a strong containment system is essential.
Popular pasture fence construction types include:
- Barbed wire
- Woven wire
- Electric wire
Your choice will depend on the location of populated areas, neighbors, and personal skills. It is also a critical component of biosecurity.
Electric fences are very common in the bison industry. An electric fence, voltage is given to the wire small amount of current should be felt and they will learn that this area is dangerous for their health.
Advantage of electric fences:
- It is very cheaper to put in.
Disadvantages of electric fences:
- A personal time study put the maintenance level at six times that of barbed wire.
This was an electric fence put into company spaces using the best insulating posts on the market.
- Wildlife incursions and flora and fauna drain power and effectiveness.
- Neighbors may not want to touch or help maintain fence you border with them.
- Limited knowledge of how electricity works for temporary help and others to provide assistance in maintaining fences.
Advantages of barbed wire:
- known by most farms and ranches when repairs are needed. Repair and maintenance are easier.
- A well constructed 6-7 wire and five-foot-high provide a sturdy fence.
- Individual animals can be repulsed when running into the fence.
The disadvantage of barbed wire:
- The cost is higher in materials and installation than the electric fence.
Advantages of woven wire:
- High level of security due to its net-like characteristics.
Disadvantages of woven wire:
- The cost of the woven wire is the highest.
- A damaged fence is more difficult to fix.
- Animals will sometimes work holes into the fence since there are no barbs to deter them from working over the fence.
How Can You Handle the Bison in a Modern Way?
Much progress has been made since the early days of bison handling. Handling of Bison is very dangerous because these are amazingly powerful, excitable, and often dangerous creatures. These insights can be built into a corral system.
A good set of corrals should be able to work all classes of bison in a manner that minimizes or eliminates injury and stress to man and beast alike.
Here is the Proper Set of Bison Corrals Description:
- They can be worked with one person but can also be worked with three or more people with a resultant increase in hourly capacity.
- The bison are in the nucleus (the area of high stress) of the facility for a very short time under 10 minutes.
- The corrals will effectively handle animals, of all classes, that have come straight off the truck and have never seen the facility. This shows the layout speaks the universal language of bison.
- Animals that are processed regularly flow through the system better each time.
- It is easy to corral the bison and stage them for processing.
- When the animals are not in the nucleus they are clam and can be held, fed, and watered and made comfortable.
A Proper Set of Bison Corrals Will Allow you to Apply the Following Principles:
- you will be able to apply and release pressure to the animals’ ribcage flight zone from the head to the tail, up to and including the load-out and entry into the squeeze chute.
- Humans over the count of three are largely hidden from the bison view. I believed that bison can count to three. Threats numbering over that amount cause an ever-increasing level of anxiety and stress. Once a bison is stressed there is perhaps no harder animal to handle. Hence, the fewer the people the better.
- When threats are in the corrals, the animals must always have somewhere safe to getaway. A proper design will allow you to carefully apply pressure as needed and they will escape right to where you want them to go.
- Bison will always come back better than they went. This principle can and should be used to get them to go to places that they would prefer not to go.
- Bison are herd animals, and as such, there are followers and leaders. If your corrals allow you to work the leaders, the rest will follow at a run. If your corrals ignore this trait and treat them as one big blob, with no social structure, you will be adding stress where it is not needed. Additionally, if your corrals ignore that they are herd animals and require you to needlessly separate animals, the stress levels will increase.
- Working bison is an exercise in trust-building. At the end of the experience, if your lead animals feel that you have been firm, but fair and everything worked out pretty well, you have had a good day. conversely, if your animals feel like they have been rammed, jammed, and abused-good luck with next time.
Corrals Design Layout:
- The design of the corrals should be in such a way that it allows the bison to always have somewhere to go.
- It should give you the opportunity to apply pressure, with very few steps and in precise amounts, to get the animals to flow through quickly.
- The nucleus should be small and, as such, animals are only in that zone for a very short time. You can work with 350 herds with this small set of corrals in an eight hour period.
- It is recommended that the curved alley to feed the squeeze chute, but found it to be cost-prohibitive when you will build this system. Notice that with the aid of a couple of rope and pulleys, the squeeze chute operator can sort five ways out of the squeeze chute without moving.
- The preferred material is welded pipe, and plate steel where needed. Materials of lesser strength may have given and the bison will try these types of fences. This creates a handling/training problem in that if the bison feel they can break out, they are not going to give you their undivided attention. All wild animals are trainable to some degree, including bison, and in essence, a proper set of corrals will afford you the opportunity to train the animals.
- It is best to reserve the use of solid-sided fences for the very nucleus of the corral.
- It is best to have visual contact with the animals even as they load into the chute so as to continue to apply the flight zone principles instead of force.
- When sheeting corrals do not use less than 10 gauge steel, as lesser thicknesses will not hold up to the bigger animals’ abuse.
- Spend effort in design and construction to limit rattles and other noises. Be certain to have tops welded onto feeder alleys and squeeze chutes.
- Make sure single file alleys have tapered sides so as to protect smaller animals from being crushed. This also helps keep animals from turning around.
- Circle style tubs, while very popular, have their problems. Most operations that have these have figured out that it is best not to close the gate much past a 180 degree.
- You can work about 30 head an hour through this facility and can sort in the alley, on foot, and load-out gooseneck or semis without help. Corrals have offloaded semi loads of even mature bulls from big range country. Being able to sort stock on foot, without running them through the squeeze chute, is a great time and stress saver.
- Make sure your corrals have this feature but make sure you always have an escape route.
- Solid sides are the most dangerous in this regard, so greater thought and care for safety should be given in these areas.
- 6’6” is the minimum height for side alleys and 7 feet is required for high-stress areas. Bison can jump with ease.
Hydraulic Squeeze Chute:
- Hydraulic squeeze chute is very nice- if you can justify the expense. If you decide to use a hydraulic chute make sure you move the motor off the top of the chute and move the control of the chute too.
- A man standing with his arms overhead looks a whole lot like a trap to a bison-think, lion pouncing on their back.
- Flooring choice is very important, as many injuries can occur with incorrect flooring. Concrete should be in the nucleus region. Concrete assures that all the tolerances will remain the same, wet or dry. The finish on concrete should be almost as rough as you can make it. You want it to hold dirt and yet have rough concrete edges showing. Concrete should be firm with a coarsely toothed rake. Your concrete man will cringe but slick concrete is a sure recipe for broken legs and hips. Make sure your corrals have proper drainage.
- The alleys should be packed and graveled.
You should carefully consider how to manage risk on your farm. First, you should ensure your facilities and equipment. This may be accomplished by consulting your insurance agent or broker. It is especially important to have adequate levels of property, vehicle, and liability insurance.
Deer / Cervid Farming / Profitability Table
|Deer Type||Ave Weight||Average Calves/Yr||Gestation||Meat Retail Price/lb|
|White Tailed||150||2||201||$ 38.95|
|Mule||120 - 320||2||203||$ 7 - 9.50|
|Elk||71- - 730||1||240 - 262||$ 44.95|
|Reindeer||350 - 400||1||222||$ 74.95|
|Moose||840 - 1500||1||243||$ 7.50|
Bison Facts : Can a Bison Out Run a House
|Breed of Bison||Speed||Jump Height||Weight||Population||Farms/Domesticated|
|Plains Bison||35 MPH||6'||2,000||3,000||Yes - 450,000|
|Wood Bison||35 MPH||6'||2,600 lbs||2.500|
|American Bison||35 MPH||6'||2,100||31,000||Yes - 150,000|
|European Bison||?||6'||1,398||6,083||Yes - 6,000|
|African Buffalo (Cape)||35 MPH||?||1,500||400,000|
|Asian Buffalo - Water. Swamp, River||30 MPH||?||1,000||4,000||Yes|
Speed of Breeds -Weight - Estimated Population
|Breeds||Weight||Origin||Current Population||Largest Recorded|
|Plains Bison||700 - 2200 lbs||United States||3,000 - Yellowstone||3,800 lbs|
|Woods Bison||790 - 2400 lbs||United States||7,000 - Canada|
|European Bison||1800 - 2200 lbs||Europe / Russia||7,500 ( 2019 )||4,200 lb|
|American Bison / American Buffalo||880 - 2200 lbs||United States New York - Colorado||545,000||3,800 lb|
|Water Buffalo||1700 - 2600 lbs||Asia||130 Million||2650 lbs|
|Cape Buffalo / African Buffalo||660 - 1900 lbs||Africa||900,000||2,000 lbs|