Bison Calendar

Gerald Hauer, DVM
Bison Production Specialist
Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development
Bison Centre of Excellence, Leduc, Alberta.
Phone: (780) 986-4100

Reprinted from The Tracker, volume 4, issue 2, February 2000, pages 6-8

Summary

This article outlines some of the basic management procedures followed by bison producers throughout a calendar year. It serves as a summary of bison management for the newcomer to the business and as a reminder of the seasonal tasks for the farmer that has been in the business for a few years.

Bison Calendar

Each month the Tracker asks if there are any questions or suggested topics for this article. One reader suggested that we include reminders for the procedures that should be performed each month to help maintain his herd. This month I have outlined my suggestions for management of a bison herd so that it can viewed as an entire year. In subsequent issues the Tracker will include the reminders for the current month. I would like to thank the veterinarians and producers that helped put this calendar together. If you have any comments or suggestions please contact me.

January and February

  • Cows on pasture or fed throughout the winter depending on management style
  • Ideally cows should not gain weight over the winter (losing 10% of their body weight is natural)
  • Cows should be in lean to moderate body condition score in the spring to minimize calving difficulties
  • Calves and yearlings should be fed to maintain optimum growth throughout the winter but not over fed or reproductive problems may arise
  • Plan pasture rotation strategy for spring calving and summer grazing
  • Herd test for TB and Brucellosis

March

  • Ensure mineral intake of the pregnant cows; mix it in some grain if necessary and pail feed (Do not overfeed the pregnant cows and make them too fat for calving!)
  • Attend shows, sales and seminars to keep informed on the industry
  • Select replacement bulls

April

  • Calve cows in a clean and spacious calving pasture to minimize calf diseases
  • Do not stress cows at this time
  • Vaccinate short and long yearlings before turning them onto summer pasture and weigh them to monitor weight gains
  • Consider fly control products such as insecticide eartags, insecticide applicators on pasture, or predator flies.
  • Ensure mineral intake of the pregnant cows; mix it in some grain if necessary and pail feed
  • Select replacement bulls

May

  • Count newborn calves
  • Turn animals into spring pastures
  • Pasture improvement with fertilizers, aeration, etc.
  • Check and repair fence in summer pastures
  • Build new fences as required
  • Make plans to attend bison association functions over the summer

June

  • Turn animals into summer pastures
  • Rotate pastures to ensure good quality feed is available to bison at all times
  • If pasture is poor, supplemental feeding can be considered for the cows because their demand for nutrients is at its peak right now
  • Ensure mineral intake of the lactating cows; mix it in some grain if necessary and pail feed
  • Deworm herd by using products in feed or water
  • Semen test bulls

July

  • Turn bulls out with cow and heifers
  • Continue pasture rotation to maximize pasture quality and utilization by the herd
  • Relax, taken a vacation, go fishing

August

  • Breeding season
  • Perform fecal tests on calves to evaluate parasite load
  • Monitor herd for fly problems

September and October

  • Repair or modify handling system to accommodate herd for the fall season
  • Test feed supplies for nutrients
  • Plan winter feeding program
  • Place yearling bulls on a feedlot ration to prepare them for slaughter
  • Remove breeding bulls from cow herd

November

Fall processing:

  • deworm
  • vaccinate calves and cows (8 way Clostridial, IBR/BVD, plus any other appropriate vaccines based on consultation with your veterinarian)
  • weigh
  • dehorn calves, yearlings, or cows
  • eartag calves
  • pregnancy check cows
  • Return calves to cows and put back on pasture (match calves with cows)
  • Herd test for TB and Brucellosis
  • Vaccinate calves with booster in 3-4 weeks
  • Wean calves

December

  • Perform fecal examination on young stock to test efficacy of deworming program
  • Feed calves and yearlings to maintain optimum growth
  • Return cows to pasture or use supplemental feeding
  • Market calves, yearlings, cull cows
  • Herd test for TB and Brucellosis

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