Minnesota Bison Association
Helping Members Successfully Raise and Promote Bison

September 2019: Rockie Hill Bison

Winona, Minnesota

Dave and Gail Griffin

rockie1Twenty-nine years ago, neither of us foresaw the path we embarked on. While looking for a 10 to 20- acre parcel to build a home, Dave discovered a 300-acre farm that had yet to be listed and sellers wanted less than the smaller parcels looked at. He skillfully convinced Gail it was an excellent investment and Rockie Hill became a reality and forever altered our journey.

Soon after the move to the farm Dave’s Dad began dropping of his newborn dairy bull calves for us to raise. That was not working well with our extremely time-consuming positions in town. An alternative was essential. A business acquaintance of Dave’s who won a bison herd in a poker game urged us to buy a few to help him out… and so it began and oh my what a consistent learning curve it has been.

In the early 90’s there were a handful of herds in the Minnesota/Wisconsin area and a significant lack of educational information available on anything to do with bison. Reflectively, we perceive it set up the typical bison producers’ mentality of all working together for the good of the bison, to share what works and what doesn’t that is still strong today and highly envied by other traditional livestock sectors.

We were fortunate that the first International Bison Conference, summer 1993, was convening in LaCrosse, Wisconsin just 25 miles away. We both learned a lot during that gathering of hundreds of producers from around the world. Also, a meeting of Minnesota producers was held at the event, and the new Association really started to take shape and we both threw our hats in offering to assist. That involvement continues today in both MnBA and National Bison Association (NBA). We have learned so much over the years by attending the offered educational conferences and serving on various committees.

rockie3

Between raising the animal and both of our involvement in MnBA and NBA we have given a try to just about everything including breeding stock sales, direct meat sales, agritourism, etc. Have there been mistakes along the way? For sure! Some substantial others minor hiccups. Have there been days we have asked ourselves what the heck are we doing? Numerous, particularly that one day a year, “Round Up”, we dread going into and usually find celebration by the end of the day along with new repairs and new ideas for next year. For years “never said it was going to be easy, yet never knew it was going to be this hard” became our common idiom.

Like many other long-time producers, we have stories on the resilience of this amazing animal mixed with traumatic experiences and good laughs at ourselves. One often shared came about in the early 2000’s. Our only market at the time was selling breeding stock which had plummeted. We had lost two breeding bulls in an early spring fight and were down to one bull with 43 cows. Not wanting to invest any more at the time as the farm was debt free, we decided to go with just the one bull, Benson, and anticipate ten to fifteen calves. That’s what all educational information said to expect a bull to service. To our surprise (dismay?) he serviced all 43 cows. Yes, 100% calving rate.

The most treasured in our years of involvement is where the path we chose years ago has developed a lifestyle we feel blessed to live, that our youngest grandson, Spencer, has chosen to be involved in the operation along with his dad, Dave and the lifelong friendships that have developed as we enjoy one another’s company and participate in our families growth.

Last weekend we hosted a Griffin family gathering. One sister-in-law teased that Gail needed to get off the farm more as she knew nothing about a new “trendy” handbag they were talking about. Another sister-in-law rapidly stated, “Why would she leave this paradise?”. We couldn’t agree more.

Dedicated to bison and our cherished family and friends,
Dave and Gail Griffin

 


 

rockie2Hi all, you may not have heard from me yet, I am Spencer Griffin, the grandson of David and Gail Griffin.

From the time I was a 6, I had every chance to go to my grandparent's farm, known as Rockie Hill Bison.

I am a Junior member of the Minnesota Bison Association. I am 16 years old, going to be a Junior in high school at Cotter Schools in Winona.

All the fun began when I was six driving on my dad's lap down the gravel road to the bison farm. Soon after that, I was operating the equipment on my grandpa's lap, and the first time I was alone operating, he sent me out to rake hay. The summer of 2016 I was working every machine and knowing how to do everything, but still haven't to this day, cut the grass or bail the hay, Gramps still must keep himself busy.

From my eyes as a 16-year-old, I have gained a lot of knowledge about bison and farming in general. It is a great way to gain trust in yourself around these types of animals. Two years ago, it was my first time going to the auction. The auction was a great experience, seeing all the animals, and meeting all the great bison producers, and just being able to work in the back with animals.

At the Rockie Hill Bison farm, I am the only employee there, and it is excellent to work with my grandpa every day in the summer. You never know what you are going to be doing that day until things start to pop up. Over the years in the summer I have learned extra jobs outside the bison world like dirt work, building things, and just the stuff the average teenager would not learn in school or on their summer vacation.

My favorite thing to do is to work with the animals in November at round-up. I think that it is great to be around farmers and farms because you can learn a lot of cool and neat things. I am very blessed and thankful to have grandparents to raise me and teach me things around the bison world.

Hope all your summer was great and see you at the auction!
Spencer Griffin

 

 

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