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Live from the Ranch

This is the official Ranch Journal, a collection of short reports about daily life on the ranch. Postings are made by all ranch staff, but mostly by Tess Leach & Kate Matheson, Guest Services Managers, David Leach, Business & Marketing Manager and Jeff Gossage, Ranch Manager. (Banner photo 3 by Stephen Weaver)

Friday, Nov 19, 2010
As Asta said, we finalized the big bison round up and processing last Saturday night.  It was a very intense three weeks.  There were many emotional ups and downs due to the unsure nature of gathering and working bison.  This herd in particular is very unpredictable because they live in a large area of about 50,000 acres and only get handled this one time during the year. 
After being outrun by several small herds the first morning, our spirits were down as the first slight sign of failure presented itself.  There was nothing to do except go back out and get em' and that's precisely what we did.  That afternoon was a success as was the next day and we were back to feeling better.  However, staying humble is the only way to be because if you think for a second you have them whipped (the bison), you're in for a surprise.  We stayed focused for the next five days while mostly having good success getting them in.  On the fifth day, we were down to the last 200 or so, these animals consisting of the ones that had gotten away or naturally extra wily.  Taking a loss on almost all the runs we had that day, we decided we had enough trapped.  We would take Friday off (or easy rather) and begin the processing on Saturday.  Processing started off good but on Sunday our chute broke down and we lost a whole day.  Monday and Tuesday went well and then on Wednesday, we had 500 head break down a gate and luckily were still trapped in the big trap, a pasture of about 640 acres or so.  We lost half a day gathering them back and were thankful that we were able to get them back at all.  Thursday was another loss to a broken down chute.  We were up and running again on Friday and finished up after a long day on Saturday, ending the day in the dark again.  
All in all it went well.  We had a day of rest last Sunday and are now training a young herd of bison that we shipped to the former cattle side of the ranch.  Our goal is to have this herd highly trained to electric fence and to stay calm and able to move horseback.  They will be rotated throughout our pastures in a highly managed fashion.  We have never run bison under this kind of management so I expect to learn a lot and be as prepared as possible to keep this herd quiet and responsive and respectful of fences.           
Posted by Jeff G. on 11/19/2010

Bison Processing
We are finished with our bison works for the fall 2010 season. The round-up was very successul; we got around 2,300 in to process out of the herd of about 2,500. We were all exhausted but satisfied once it was over. We took one day off, then started our week of processing the bison. During processing, all animals come through the shoot system. I was positioned at the shoot in order to record different data. For all animals 1 year or older, it is easy to tell their sex before they get into the shoot by their horns. I checked their teeth for their age- once they reach above 4 years of age, it is difficult to tell their age, so we qualify them all as "old." Dr. Joe, our wonderful vet who comes for bison processing, pregnancy checked all the cows who were 2 years or older. There is a scale under the shoot, so we are able to tell the weight of each animal as well. I wrote down the weight and age, as well as whether or not they were bred, for each animal. Every evening I put this information into a large excel spreadsheet so we are able to use the data to look at the health of our herd. During processing, we also sort off the animals that will be sold in order to keep our herd size from growing too large. We are still in the process of shipping these animals to their new owners. All in all, it was a successful few weeks, but it sure is nice to have a little break!
Posted by Asta R. on 11/18/2010

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