Buffalo (Bison) farming in Central Illinois

Published: Nov. 30, 2022 at 9:49 AM CST
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(25 News Now) - We’ve been up in the air so now let’s go to the barnyard and talk to Dan Davis of Gravity Farms LLC in Pontiac about farming buffalo.

My wife and family and I were looking for something fun to do about five or six years ago -- we stumbled on another buffalo farm in Indiana that offers tours and we went that Saturday for a Hayride tour, started becoming regular customers and we caught the bison bug shortly thereafter.

At one point up to 40 million bison estimated roamed from coast to coast basically and then there was as you know a near extinction with estimates around seven hundred to a thousand animals left in the entire United States.

They are bison, yes that’s the scientific name. Buffalo is a nickname based on the French translation that kind of was distorted through the years for the French word for ox. That’s when the French settlers came across all these millions and millions of bison. They confuse them for ox and hence the nickname.

Bison are definitely a success story -- bison are the national mammal named in 2016 by then-President Obama. Bison meat is extremely healthy red meat. It’s one of the few red meats that people with various cardiovascular issues are still able to eat and it tastes delicious.

There are bison farms in every state in the United State. Bison are very resilient, they’re a very tough animal, they are fine in the most frigid winters and can take the heat relatively well.

The gestation of bison is similar to cattle. Bison are very hands-off as far as requiring a lot of the medicine and treatment that domestic cattle have. I do one fall round-up just for pregnancy checks and some deworming and that’s about it they really are hands-off.

They’re my partners out here. I’m in it just as much to watch and enjoy them as I am to manage them.

These guys look and act the same as they did a thousand years ago I mean they eat grass and they are strong herd animals they just like to hang around with each other they’re just a very tough and admirable animal.

Bison are a little bit ornery when it comes to fences and gates. For their size they would appear to be a little bit slow and cumbersome but a bison can outrun on a horse - they’ve been clocked at 40mph and they can also allegedly clear a six-foot fence from a standstill. Thankfully I’ve ever witnessed that.

I have to sort animals off that go to the butcher we round them up in our corral that’s made of guard rail and it’s nine feet tall and that’s every ounce of that is -- used for its toughness and efficiency.

Basically, we love raising bison -- we love talking to other bison producers. It is a bug that you just don’t catch and then it goes away it gets stronger and stronger. I will do this as long as we physically can it’s a success story that many people can enjoy.