Ranchers, marketers see strong growth for buffalo business
Optimistic attitudes among bison producers attending the National Bison Association annual conference and strong prices paid at the annual bison auction held at the National Western Stock Show, both reflect the strong outlook for the buffalo business in the coming years.
"Attendance at our annual conference and the prices paid during the Gold Trophy Show and Sale both demonstrate that our ranchers and marketers have built a strong foundation for the continued growth of our business," said Dave Carter, executive director of the National Bison Association.
According to Carter, the more than 250 ranchers attending the association's annual conference here in late January included many newcomers to the business. He noted that attendees nearly overflowed one conference session featuring an opportunity for new producers to interact with long-time producers willing to serve as mentors.
"The bison business today is on solid footing because we have built a strong relationship with our customers based upon the quality of our meat, and the integrity of our animals," Carter said. "The general sessions and smaller workshops at our conference focused heavily on the steps needed to continue to build our business. The optimism among our long-time producers, and the energy of the newcomers to our business, combined to make for an exciting conference."
The optimism was evident on Saturday, as ranchers continued to demonstrate a willingness to invest in quality breeding stock to build their herds. Two-year old breeding bulls brought an average of $9,321 during the association's Gold Trophy Sale at the Stock Show, compared to the $6,650 average price paid at the 2011 event. Two-year old bred heifers averaged $4,050, yearling heifers averaged $2,856, and heifer calves sold for an average of $1,475. The animals entered into the special Ranch-Ready Pen of Five Yearling Heifers sold for an average of $2,950 per animal.
Bison Spirit Ranch of Manitoba, Canada, swept the Grand Champion and Reserve Grand Champion categories for bulls entered into the Gold Trophy Show. High Country Bison of Austin Texas garnered the Grand Champion Female award for a Two-Year Old Bred Heifer, and Wichita Buffalo Co., of Hinton, Okla., earned the Reserve Grand Champion Trophy for a Yearling Heifer. Rawhide Energy Station of Colorado earned several trophies during the judging, and gathered the points necessary to capture the Producer of the Year honors.
Members attending the bison association's annual conference also elected new officers to lead the group in 2012. The members elected Peter Cook of Indiana as president, Donnis Baggett of Texas as vice-president, and Amil Kleinert of Indiana as secretary-treasurer. Bruce Anderson of South Dakota was elected as director-at-large. And, the board of directors appointed Dick Gehring of Kansas to fill a vacancy created by Baggett's shift from director to vice-president.
John Flocchini, who led the association as president for the past two years-stepped down because of term limits, but will continue to chair the board meetings as past president for the next two years.
At the association's annual awards banquet, Baggett was honored as Member of the Year for his volunteer efforts on behalf of the bison industry. Gail Griffin of Minnesota, who completed her final board term as past president was honored at the banquet for her service as well.
Rusty Seedig of Denver was posthumously inducted into the National Buffalo Hall of Fame during a special ceremony during the awards banquet. Seedig was one of the founders of the former Denver Buffalo Co. and was a pioneer in building the buffalo business prior to his death in 2010. The Hall of Fame is maintained in Jamestown, N.D., by the National Buffalo Foundation.