Minnesota Buffalo Association
Creating a Progressive RUMBLE in the Bison Industry

September 2017: Snow Bound Bison

Barron, Wisconsin

Gary, Donna and Wyatt Workman

snow-bound-bisonWhat was a dairy farm is now a bison farm. I have always had an interest in bison but the summer of 1999 is when I got serious. We visited a few bison farms so we could see their operations. Up to this time we had been cash cropping on the farm. Bison had always fascinated me and I was ready for something with more excitement.

We bought our first bison calves in the summer of 1999 from Tuscobia Trail Bison, Silver Bison Ranch, and Scott Weber along with some Weber bulls. Up to this point we didn’t even have a corral or holding pen. It was a very busy summer visiting other farms, and implementing ideas into our budget and trying to figure out what would work. We built the corral in the winter of 1999 trudging through snow. This is how the name Snow Bound Bison came to be. We used wood posts from a saw mill and white oak rails; the corral tub was made up of the same. I welded and put together three roller gates, as these are still in use today, it was quite the project. The corral was a simple rectangle and split in two. The tub was made of posts and white oak and a swinging gate which worked well for several years.

Hidden Bison Ranch was hosting a field day so we showed up to see their facilities. It was good to see all the enthusiasm there. We learned of mule fencing products and hired Dan and his family to fence up a 30 acre perimeter. A little wind and drizzle in the spring of 2000 made for a good day of fencing. The fence went up fast and a hot meal at the end of the day made everyone feel good.

Finally it is time for the bison to arrive, the grass is tall. Isn’t it amazing how fast the grass gets eaten down? The first time releasing the animals into the field the bison ran across the field and they seemed to disappear within the tall grass, and you wonder if you will see them again; especially when they are on a dead run to the far side of the farm.

Our operation has been 100 percent grass fed and finished with no grain at any time given to the animals. We enjoy the health benefits from grass fed and we enjoy the good lean meat.

snow-bound-bison2The farm consists of 195 acres; which includes 35 acres of rental ground and the original farm of 160 acres. We have recently worked on fencing and split the fields into 15-acre paddocks. We’ve run water lines down the fence lines which supplies water to 1 water tank for 2 paddocks. This way the animals do not have so far to go to water and they are more apt to go alone or a smaller group and not as a herd. When animals are moved to the new pasture the old pasture is cut which allows for the organic matter and encourages new, more even growth.

For winter feeding the animals are kept closer to the barn and to their main water source. Round bails are put into a feed bunk which is moved periodically. We also roll out round bails for a more natural grazing ability which also keeps the animals more content and calm.

Remodeling and looking at how to do things easier is always something to think about. For selling meat we have added a store front off the garage, which includes a 12x16 freezer unit. In the corral, the old wooden tub is gone and replaced with more roller gates, and a Lynn holding chute which is mounted on weight bars.

When we started, our idea was to sell the animals whole. When the market crashed we quickly changed our mind and started butchering, getting into meat sales. The animals are shot in the field and are USDA inspected. We sell meat off the farm, and sell animals at MnBA’s Legends of the Fall Bison Auction.

Our plans are to increase the herd, and continue to fence more grazing paddocks. We have come a long way through the years and we are very thankful for these many years in the bison business. We both work off the farm; we enjoy the animals, and meeting customers and other producers as we go.

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