Bison Break Through in 2013
Even as ranchers scramble to navigate through the historic drought across much of the United States, the bison business entered 2013 in tan extremely strong economic position. Consumer demand for lean, delicious bison meat is continues to outstrip the available supply of market-ready animals. The resulting high prices processors are paying for those animals has sent a strong signal to ranchers to build their herds across the United States.
Market prices in late 2012 clearly illustrate the burgeoning growth of the buffalo business. The $3.88/lb. average price paid by marketers for a young bull carcass at the start of 2013 was 89% percent higher than the price paid only five years earlier. Continued strong live animal prices at the auctions in late 2012 demonstrated that producers are bullish on the future of our business.
Bison ranchers remember all too well that strong live bison prices in the 1990’s proved to be unsustainable because the industry had not yet connected with consumers about the great qualities of buffalo meat. Those producers recognize that our customers in grocery stores, farmers’ markets and restaurants are now our partners in building a strong, sustainable sector of agriculture.
That is why we are dedicated to “doing it right” as we build herds of bison across the country. For example, we are proud that regulations prohibit the use of artificial growth hormones in bison, and our industry protocols limit antibiotic use to only the amounts needed to treat illnesses in the animals. We also know that, because bison are a natural part of the North American ecosystem, bison ranching can be a beneficial to the natural environment.
Today, the National Bison Association is actively reaching out to students, beginning farmers, and existing livestock ranchers to promote what we refer to as The Bison Advantage. We want to introduce a new generation of producers to the rewards of raising animals that thrive on native grasses, are adapted to the climate extremes and the predators of our ecosystem, Consider these factors:
• No artificial shelter (barns, etc.) needed. Bison prefer to be outside, year round, despite the weather.
• Efficient feed utilization, making them economical foragers which do well on most grasses in the United States.
• Long productive lives.
• Primary requirements: Fresh water and adequate nutrition.
• Calving rarely requires human intervention. Bison by and large calve on their own.
• Superior hardiness results in disease resistance, lower input costs, fewer veterinarian visits.
• Bison thrive in most North American landscapes with no ill effects.
• The bison industry enjoys a free enterprise market without excessive intervention.
• Bison demand has consistently grown in double digits for the past five years.
A few years ago, the National Bison Association initiated a Bison 101 online curriculum to introduce prospective producers to the basics of our business. Our in-depth Bison 201 curriculum is providing newcomers and veteran producers alike with new tools for business planning, animal handling, and marketing.
Now, we’ve added an all-new 40-minute DVD, The Insiders’ Guide to Bison Handling & Management, as a valuable tool that will help newcomers make a smooth transition into our business.
Additionally, we are reaching out to the next generation of producers through our Junior Judging competition at the National Western Stock Show, and through our presence at the National FFA convention each fall. We are also cosponsoring a series of Bison Advantage workshops, and are working with national broadcast outlets to spread the word as well.
Our comprehensive Bison Producers’ Handbook represents a groundbreaking collaborative effort of more than 30 experienced producers from the United States and Canada. These experts have shared their knowledge in an informative, and easy to understand manner.
Today’s growth represents a remarkable comeback for a species that teetered on the brink of extinction little more than a century ago. The decimation of the bison herds in the late 1800’s is a bleak chapter in American history. Herds that numbered more than 30 million when the first European explorers set foot on the American continent were nearly wiped out by the 1880’s. At the turn of the 20th century, fewer than 1,000 bison remained in existence.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s most recent Census of Agriculture, conducted in 2007, pegs the U.S. bison on private lands at 200,000 animals. With animals on public lands factored in, the actual size of the U.S. herd is now estimated at about 220,000 bison in the United States.
In short 2013 is a great time to be a part of the bison business, where producers, marketers, customers, chefs, nutritionists and environmentalists all agree: America’s original red meat is good for our health, good for our environment, and absolutely delicious.
If you are interested in becoming part of the emerging, exciting bison business, please contact the NBA by phone at (303) 292-2833, and we'll get you started.