The Bison* Experiment

* Buffalo or Bison?

In August 2002 Whitsunday Beefalo got 5 bison heifers from Deanne and Ashley Brown, Beetoomba Bison

Our goal is not to breed and sell bison, but to start an experiment: we want to breed the bison heifers to one of our Beefalo bulls to get Hybrid Bison and eventually Beefalo. At the same time we are continuing to breed up from bovines to Beefalo.

This is Evanston Thaddaeus (17.5% bison content), the young bull who runs with the weaner bison heifers. At 23 months (June 2003) he weighs 604 kg, almost double the bison's weight. At the beginning he was pretty impressed by the strange looking creatures, but has got used to them and interacts with them.

Why female bison? Breeding in the USA has shown that trying to breed Beefalo or bovine females to bison bulls is risky. The bovine dams develop 'hydrops', an accumulation of water in the uterus; they most likely abort and/or die. Bison females don't seem to develop antibodies against the 'foreign' bovine tissue: they will normally have healthy hybrid heifer calves and sterile bull calves. The bull calves could be weak and have problems. But that is all in the future:

Things started to go wrong in October. They started to loose weight and by mid October they carried lots of ticks. The pour-on only took effect very late, because of their thick coat. At the beginning of November, despite the best of care, with vitamin injections, iron treatment and constant supervision of their skin, the first bison, Gamma, died. The post-mortem didn't reveal anything dramatic, only that she didn't die of tick fever or any other known bovine disease, nor did she die of any poison. What the blood tests showed was an extreme anemia: the blood was like raspberry Cordial!

Beginning of December the second bison died, Delta, the smallest and the most anemic. We were devastated and thought that our bison experiment had failed.

Since then, things look brighter. Very slowly, the three remaining bison recovered, regained their appetite and started to gain weight. We make sure that they don't carry any ticks and they get Vitamin C and B12 in their water. They chew their cud and seem to be very content. So we keep our fingers crossed that our bison experiment will still go ahead, albeit with only three instead of five.

In July the 3 bison are doing very well, all weighing more than 300 kg. At the end of July the first one cycled! Things start looking good again...

loving the cool weather!

 

2006 - the bison are almost 4 years old and have acclimatized well. They are healthy and strong. The new Beefalo bull David is not impressed by them anymore and interacts well. My breeding experiment hasn't come to fruition yet, as two of the bison have aborted twice and the youngest one hasn't bred at all. I am very hopeful that it will work with David and I'll eventually get a healthy  bison/Beefalo heifer or even bull.

At the moment I am happy that they are doing well. People love to see them.

At the end of 2006 one of the bison calved and had a healthy heifer! Talisa - beautiful water - looks like a bison, but the colour is like Dad's. She is a true bison hybrid - 65 percent bison content.

a few days old

2007 / 2008

 

Talisa at weaning age. She is a true representative of a bison hybrid: she has the best of both worlds and grunts like a bison!

In March the second bison calved: a tiny - 17 kg - bull, but perfectly healthy. So finally our effort came to fruition. David seemed to have done the job. Whether Okemos, the bison hybrid bull, is fertile we have yet to find out, but he is growing and slowly catching up.

In February 2007 Peter picked up 2 bison orphans from Victoria. He bottle-fed them on the long way home. After some initial problems - it rained all the way home - Jasmine and Jade are healthy and happy, grazing in the garden with their Beefalo mate Shakira, another orphan.

2008 Jade and Jasmine are running with the bison. They have acclimatized well, but get bossed around by the big girls. There has been no more progeny as David got bored with the strange looking females. We hope to find an appropriate bull and at the same time try to A.I. the girls.