On Thanksgiving, We Danced With Bison

There are no “vacation days” when it comes to caring for livestock. So this Thanksgiving, alongside enjoying the traditional turkey and stuffing, my fiancé, my uncle and I helped sort bison calves at my parent’s ranch. As you can imagine, my dad was glad to have family visiting so he could “put them to work.”

Because they’re all cute, fluffy and brown, sorting calves should be easy, right? Not when it involves separating these babies from their mommas. Each calf is weaned so it can be sold at auction. This is always a stressful time for any animal, but it’s even more stressful with bison cows and calves because they aren’t quite as domesticated as cattle and are known to be highly-protective of their calves. Though difficult, we sort calves through a network of corrals and gates. When a cow runs through, we quickly shut the gate so she is separated from her calf. The bison cows then move on out to pasture while the calves stay in the corral, reducing the stress on the cows once out of the corral.

Each year, there’s always at least one bison cow that puts up quite a fight. This year was no different. Instead of moseying toward the open gate, this cow chose to charge us, annoyed she was in the corral in the first place. My uncle had the job of walking in the corral to encourage the cows to leave, and this particular cow charged at him not once, but twice. Thankfully, he was able to get behind a hay bale, “dancing” with her much like a rodeo clown dances to avoid a bucking bull, until she ran out of the gate.

Like most families, we always look forward to getting together for Thanksgiving dinner, but I think we look forward to sorting buffalo calves even more. We’re just as thankful to work together as a team and take pride in raising healthy bison calves.

Posted by Abby.



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