North Dakota Buffalo Association


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Buffalo Production

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Buffalo have an entirely different nature than cattle. People who have worked cattle for so many years that they can predict what they're going to do find they can't do the same with their buffalo. The best advice we can give cattlemen converting to buffalo is to forget about applying your cattle knowledge to buffalo - we guarantee that it isn't going to apply! For example, in working buffalo you need to develop the philosophy of leading, not driving. Most experienced raisers keep their herds tame and manageable by treating them to special goodies periodically. They absolutely love treats like range cake, or anything with molasses, and will follow the goodie-wagon nearly anywhere once they have been trained to it. Special treats (or even water) in their corral will get them used to going into it, and makes it much easier to get them into the corral whenever you want.

Another important thing to remember is that buffalo have a very strong herding instinct. They stay in cohesive groups, and it is very difficult (some say impossible) to cut individuals from the herd.

Because they are a herd animal, for best results you'll need to maintain several in your group. One or two buffalo will not be happy, and they will not thrive even under the best of conditions. If there are cows or other animals nearby they will yearn to join them. Their herd instinct is so strong that they will give up their individuality as buffalo to leap the fence and join another species so they can be part of a 'real' herd. If you do have sufficient buffalo to establish a herd group, however, you will generally be able to pasture cattle and buffalo in adjoining fields. Pasturing two herds of buffalo side by side, however, will usually result in the group ignoring the fence and becoming one herd of buffalo. The secret to keeping buffalo where you want them is to give them no reason to go somewhere else. Give your buffalo plenty of good feed and water, salt and minerals, and they'll seldom try to break out.

Roy Houck, who passed away in November of 1992, was the National Buffalo Association's founding president. His Standing Butte Ranch, in South Dakota, was the filming site used for the movie Dances With Wolves. Roy said that once when floods took out a lot of his fences, his cattle scattered to the four winds. But the buffalo stayed put. They knew when they had a good thing.

Buffalo have also been observed staying put in a pasture with a rickety fence that wouldn't hold a crippled cow. The owner said the only time they got out was when he left the gate open. On the other hand, some owners have had a hard time keeping their buffalo confined even with good tight strong fences. As a rule, buffalo are not as hard on fences as cattle. But don't count on it.

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