Today my wife, son, grandpa and I visited a local buffalo ranch not far from our home. The ranch is located Buffalo, Indiana. What better place, right? Each Labor Day weekend the ranch is open for public tours followed by a meal including a buffalo burger. The facility is family owned an operated by a husband and wife team along with their son. The husband was once a teacher and taught my dad in the sixth grade.
The ranch has been in operation for 36 years. There are 76 animals on site at this time. The tour consists of hopping in a wagon pulled by a tractor that takes you out to whatever pasture the buffalo are grazing on. This is the second time we’ve been on the tour, and the first time with our son who is not quite 3 years old.
For me the most interesting part is learning how buffalo differ from other types of livestock. What I find interesting is that they don’t seek shelter in bad weather. The animals I saw spend all their time in pasture. They only go up to the barn for sorting. Their owners say that in a snow storm the buffalo will lay down in the open pasture facing the wind and let the snow drift over them. When the storm passes they just get up, shake off the snow and go on about their business. It seems that buffalo like to take care of themselves.
Of the many good stories we heard during the tour the best one might be about the time all 120 buffalo escaped. One day the gate out by the road was left open by accident. It was later discovered that the entire herd had left through the opening and was headed toward the river about a half mile away. Luckily the rancher knew that even though the buffalo normally only eat grass they saw oats as a great treat. Over time the rancher had learned the buffalo knew the sound of buckets banging together meant oats. After spending a good deal of time banging two buckets together the entire herd came thundering over the hill back to the pasture. Then the worry became cars passing by as the buffalo crossed. There were no accidents and every last animal returned to the pasture.
These buffalo haven’t missed out on the drought much of the country has experienced. We were told the ranch has spent $7000 on hay already that had to be shipped across state lines. The pastures were green the day we visited, but only due to recent rains over the last few weeks. Until now the pastures have been quite dry and not suitable for feeding. The buffalo still need more hay to get through winter. We were told this year may be the first time the ranch has lost money since it was created.
Buffalo. It’s what’s for dinner.
Before leaving the ranch I picked up 2lbs of burgers and 2lbs of brats. I’ve only had buffalo burgers in the past. They were out of steaks. I’ve never seen a buffalo steak on a restaurant menu so I’d like to try one. I’ll be sure to get some pictures of our buffalo meat on the grill when the time comes!