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Ranchers Buy Bison At Rapid City Auction As Business Booms

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — Larry Byrd has enough heifers on his Presho buffalo ranch. He needed a stud.

“I’m a little short on bull-power,” Byrd said recently as he surveyed a gang of 2-year-old breeding bulls during the Black Hills Buffalo Classic at the Central States Fairgrounds as part of the Black Hills Stock Show and Rodeo.

And the live auction bison sale, put on by the Dakota Territory Buffalo Association, offered some of the best stock in the region. Meanwhile, business is booming for the industry, the Rapid City Journal reported ( ).

Overall, the auction brought 27 head of 2-year-old bull bison and 35 2-year-old bred heifers from buffalo ranches throughout Colorado, South Dakota and North Dakota.

The bison have spent the past year at two host ranches — one for the bulls and a second for the heifers — in the northwestern stretches of South Dakota, just south of Buffalo.

The bison were uniformly cared for at the host ranches, with the same feeding regiment and overall environment, so that a stream of data could be collected for a statistical look into each animal’s genetic ability. The bulls at market Sunday were the best of the best.

“They’re all handled the same, and they come here a year later with all of the data we’ve collected,” Chad Kremer, a member of the Dakota Territory Buffalo Association, who manages the Custer State Park bison herd, said.

The 27 2-year-old bulls at the Black Hills Buffalo Classic came from a group of 71 total bulls that were sent to the host ranch, Slim Buttes Buffalo Ranch in Harding County.

Over the past year, the bulls excelled in overall growth but were also measured on how well-equipped they were for breeding — a measure of the scrotum — and the size and fat content of their rib-eye, which was measured with ultrasound equipment.

Rather than relying on a sharp eye to spot a stud, bison buyers at the auction were armed with hard numbers to crunch, Kremer said.

The top bull came from Slim Buttes Buffalo Ranch. The 1,347-pound 2-year-old bull gained 461 pounds since May 2014, and was nearly unparalleled in terms of scrotal points.

“Guys, there is not a bull here that couldn’t help your operation out,” auctioneer Ron Bradeen urged a packed house of bidders and spectators during the auction.

Bradeen’s co-auctioneer, Jud Seaman, said after the sale that the market for buffalo is in the midst of a boom.

The average price for a bull was about $9,000 per head. Heifers sold at roughly $5,000 on average, according to the association.

Last year, Seaman said the 2-year-old bulls sold at about $5,400, with heifers coming in at about $3,500.

“The market has been strong all fall long,” Seaman, a past president of the Dakota Territory Buffalo Association, said. “Our industry is in expansion mode.”

Kremer said demand for buffalo meat has typically met its supply in the market. As of late, he said, demand for buffalo has far outpaced the amount available for sale.

Kremer said skyrocketing beef prices, in part, have likely been a driving force in the added demand for buffalo and expanding bison ranches. Although the jump in buffalo prices was sizable, he said it remains relatively modest for the industry.

“It did jump somewhat significantly, but not too high in my opinion,” Kremer said.


Information from: Rapid City Journal,