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Tips for Starting a Bison Farm

Raising livestock has been an American tradition since the very foundation of the nation. With wide open spaces and plenty of fertile pastures, a livestock farm can become a very profitable venture. Instead of raising beef or pork, like so many other farmers do today, you could put an interesting twist on this business opportunity by starting a bison farm. Bison are highly prized because of the quality of the meat they produced. It has a higher protein content with lower cholesterol levels.

By farming is still in its infancy as an industry. That means today is the perfect time to get in on this ground-floor opportunity. If you have a passion for farming and you would like to have a product that naturally stands out as a premium item, then raising bison as livestock could be the perfect business venture. Here is what you need to know to get started.

Expenses Are High at First

The primary initial costs you have to start a bison farm are land, the animals, and fencing your land. The amount of land that you have for your farm is going to dictate how many bison you can have. About 5 acres of land can support one or two fully grown bison. For a full herd, you may need to look at a purchase of land that is 100 acres or more.

Supplement the Diet

Not all of the pasture land that is available to you may be suitable for bison grazing. This doesn’t mean that you have to reduce your herd size. It just means that you will need to supplement the diet of your livestock with grain. Bison meat that has been raised from grains is just as suitable for human consumption as meat that has been raised from natural grazing.

Start Young

If you have never been involved in livestock farming before, then think of a bison farm as a long-term investment venture. The easiest way to get started is to invest in some bison calves. Calves are easier to manage and full grown adults and they have better temperaments as well. This will help get new farmers acclimated to the business environment of growing bison and help the animals get familiar with you as they begin to grow up. Adult bison can be temperamental and that can be hard to handle if you’ve never experienced an angry bison before.

They Are Social Animals

You will not find success in bison farming unless you establish a herd. Bison are unique because they are an extremely social animal. If they are alone, then they are going to feel insecure. And insecure bison is not going to provide you with a high quality of meat when it is time to take the animal to sale. This means that you will need to plan on at least having a dozen bison to establish your first herd. In land terms, that would about 30 acres at minimum would be required.

It’s a Good Fence

Large animals need quality fencing in order to stay put. A bison is not going to feel intimidated by a simple wood fence. If they get startled, they will last through that fence in no time at all. All it takes is for one animal to become frightened for all of the other animals to begin stampeding. This is why fencing is so critical. You will need a combination of electric fencing, barbed wire, and woven fence that stands at least 6 feet tall in order to adequately protect your livestock. Make sure you install a gate on every side of your perimeter just in case an animal gets loose so that you can quickly return it to where it needs to be.

Be Careful With Marketing

Marketing your bison meat can be a tricky proposition. One of the best places to get started would be through a farm marketing cooperative that is in your local area. Working together with other farmers, you can all get your products placed on store shelves in front of customers who want to purchase them. You might also consider creating farm shares where people can invest now in bison meat and then you deliver that meat at the end of the season.

No Rest For the Weary

Bison farming is more than a full-time job. It is something that you have to do on a daily basis, around the clock, and sometimes in the middle of the night. Although there are fewer challenges in this livestock farming then there would be for a dairy herd of cattle, you still need to invest a lot of time for proper care. This means most of your day is going to be spent in the outdoors, working on your farm, or marketing the products of your farm to the local community.

Plan on Spending Some Cash

If you need to purchase bison calves, then you need to expect to spend some cash. The average bison calf that is specifically intended for meat will sell for around $1800 per head. You will also want to consider heifer calves so that you can expand your herd naturally over time. These calves typically sell for about $2400 per head. Because you need a dozen cabs to get a bison farm started at minimum, you will need to plan on a mid-level five figure investment to get going. You may then need to plan on purchasing extra calves over the next few years to supplement your herd.

That’s a Lot of Money

The average by will cost about two dollars a day to maintain. A fully grown adult bison has an $800 per year annual maintenance cost. This includes feed, veterinary care, and other associated tasks that may be necessary for the health of the animal. If you start with calves, and your primary source of income will be bison, then you will be spending money without any revenues coming in for quite some time.

Bison farming can be enormously rewarding when it is done correctly. By following these tips to start your own bison farm, you’ll be able to enjoy the rural life and have a profitable time while doing so.

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