Bison Ranch Management
Ranchlands manages two herds of bison: a conservation herd owned by the Nature Conservancy at the Zapata Ranch in Colorado and a commercial herd at the Wilder Ranch in South Dakota.
We are actively seeking additional properties to sustain and grow our bison herd over the long term.
Our Bison Program
Ranchlands manages two herds of bison: a conservation herd at the Zapata Ranch in Colorado and a commercial herd at the Wilder Ranch in South Dakota. Our commercial bison are trained from a young age to electric fences, horses, people, and herding. We graze these animals in one large pasture where they naturally divide themselves into family units. We do not wean, brand, provide pesticides, or feed salt or mineral. All female calves receive a one-time brucellosis vaccination.
Managing bison on a large scale for conservation is a relatively new frontier. We manage our conservation herd of bison with the primary objective of learning about how wild bison lived in their natural environment. The entire herd of 2,000 head grazes in one 50,000 acre pasture. We do not wean, brand, or medicate any of these bison. The entire herd runs in what we call family “pods.” We bring them into the corral once a year to administer a brucellosis vaccination to the young heifer calves and to harvest the animals for that year. The herd is not provided with pesticides, nor given supplemental feed, salt, or mineral. Bull to cow ratios are kept as high as possible, sometimes as high as 1:1 in order to maintain competition among the bulls.
Seeking Bison Ranch Management Opportunities
We are interested in partnering with landowners with available land base who are enthusiastic about the opportunity to be engaged in bison ranching in the commercial and/or conservation contexts. Ranchlands is creative and flexible in our approach, but is seeking opportunities that fit the following, general parameters:
Location: great plains and interior western states including Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, the Dakotas, Wyoming, Montana
Stocking Capacity: Minimum 600 cows (approximately 1,000 AUM)
Term & Nature of Agreement: Ranchlands’s successful model is a long term (10+ years) ranch management engagement whereby Ranchlands provides turn-key management services on subject properties, minimizing, or completely obviating, ongoing costs to the landowner.
Infrastructure: While basic cattle infrastructure is often sufficient, Ranchlands will consider investing in bison specific infrastructure given a sufficiently long management engagement.
The Bison and the Rancher
How ranchers and the bison they manage might save each other from extinction.
In order to maximize their efficiency and ensure the well-being of the herd, Duke and his crew have developed modern methods for the roundup.
The Past, Present, and Future of Wild Bison
The Nature Conservancy’s Chris Pague sat down with us at Bison Works 2018 to discuss the history of the Medano-Zapata herd, bison ecology, and the prospects for a future of wild bison.