The Shawnee News-Star Weekender Nov 9 2019 Becky Emerson Carlberg Still recovering from Halloween?  My supply of mini-candy bars is slowly diminishing.  Although Snickers still reign supreme, there are delicious little Heath bars, Hershey's dark chocolates, almond joys, Reese's cups  My relative discovered Countryside MD is run like a private enterprise.  This past cold, damp […]

The Shawnee News-Star Weekender Nov 9 2019

In the Squeeze

Becky Emerson Carlberg

Still recovering from Halloween?  My supply of mini-candy bars is slowlydiminishing.  Although Snickers stillreign supreme, there are delicious little Heath bars, Hershey's dark chocolates,almond joys, Reese's cups 

My relative discovered Countryside MD is run like a privateenterprise.  This past cold, dampHalloween night he took his little mummy and cape-shrouded pirate-thief to gotrick-or-treating.  Ten houses later, notone person had answered their door. The resident of the 11th house stuckher head out and asked 'did you not get the e-mail?'  What e-mail? 'Because of the weather, Halloween will be held Saturday night.' Oh. Thelittle goblins were then driven to the old neighborhood celebrating Halloweenregardless of the weather! 

The wild turkeys are banding together into large flocks of multiple ages and sexes.   It's a fall/winter turkey thing.   I counted thirty-five grazing and sun bathing in one field this week.  

Jack the Pumpkin

November 2nd was National Bison Day.  It just so happens the bison roundup wasbeing held at the Joseph H. Williams Tallgrass Prairie Preserve north ofPawhuska, OK.  Over 100 interested peoplemet at the Bunkhouse for a light breakfast of tiny cinnamon rolls, muffins,coffee and tea.  The group was welcomedand introduced to the Chapman-Barnard Ranch. A little history.  Two cowboysfrom Texas wandered up to Glenpool OK in 1910 and made their fortunes in oil.  They later bought up leases and land in the Pawhuskaarea, amassing nearly 100,000 acres. 

The Barnard portion of the ranch through time had beenwhittled down to 30,000 acres.  TheNature Conservancy (TNC) purchased this in 1989, and later added an additional 15,000acres (leases and sales) from local sources. About 25,000 acres are devoted to bison. Another eleven thousand acres have been set aside for prescribed burningtrials; TNC has partnered with OK State University to show this type of field maintenanceworks as well for cattle as it does for bison. 

At present 2,800 to 3,000 American bison (Bison bison) live in the preserve.    Yes, the scientific name is actually Bison bison!  During the days of the roundup, 300 to 500 bison are processed each day, about one bison per minute. The chute system is about 50 feet long and divided into 5 sections.   A bison is put into each section.   The head chute has a squeeze which secures the head.   The width varies from 36 inches for adults down to 18 inches for calves.   With the animal immobilized, anti-worming liquid is given both subcutaneously and orally as well as shots for Mycoplasma bovis and general health.   The microchip in one ear and circular tab in the other ear are checked for identification.   Each bison, unless a calf, is already registered in the computer record system.   The animals are weighed.   Heaviest so far has been 1804 pounds.   In the remaining chutes other examinations are made.  

Here's Looking at you.

The bison are separated by age and sex. Bison designated formarket are given no shots or meds. The color ear tab is replaced with a silverUSDA ear tab for interstate travel. These animals are put into separate pens.  The mothers with calves are released into thenorth pasture.  The younger males andfemales to stay at the preserve are released to the south.  Careful. They often dash across the road after their ordeal and head for open fields.

While visitors watched the processing, a huge racket commencedat the far end of the chute system.  Thenext bison did not appear.  A cowboy ranalong the pathway next to the chutes yelling 'he's raising hell; he's going tobe sold.'  The man opened up a pen wherethe angry bison was then released.  The 5-year-oldbull stood over 6 feet at the shoulder and had already gored two otherbison.  The comment 'that bad boy isgoing to become buffalo burger.'  A fewminutes later the rest of the bison began coming through the system likeclockwork.

At lunchtime over BBQ and fixings, another talk was given bythe ranch director.  After rehashing thebunkhouse talk, he opened up the floor to questions. 

'What happens to the bison?' Some go to the meat market but others go to supplement private andpublic herds throughout the country. 

'How do you decide who goes where?'   In the chute system, the nether regions of female cows are checked to determine whether they are pregnant or whether the udder is wet or dry.   If the udder is dry and she is over 10 years old, she goes to market.   If the udder is wet, this indicates she is nursing a calf and she will be kept and released to the pastures.   Males over 6 years old, or cop an attitude, are taken to market.  

Bison calves wondering what is happening

In the herd, a ratio of one bull for every 5-7 cows is good.  During the roundup, determinations are madewhich cows and young bulls are kept versus those sent to market.  The calves are not sold at this time.  A female cow can't breed before the age of threeyears.  One-year old calves remain withtheir mothers.  Most calves are born inspring, but smaller yearlings are called dinks. The dinks are separated and put into a separate field of fescue and fedprotein supplements.  The dinks are soldthe next spring to go into other herds. 

'How diverse is the herd?' The geneticists prefer blood but this is difficult to get from a 1500-poundanimal in a squeeze.  In one of the chutesthe tail is grabbed and a handful of fur is pulled from the very end off thebone.  Genetic testing began five yearsago.  Through careful procurement,culling and detailed records, the geneticists say the tallgrass bison herd isthe most diverse and one of the purest in the US.

'How do you tell the age of a bison?'  When a new calf comes through, a part oftheir bottom is shaved and they are branded with the year they are born. 

'What about brucellosis?' The female calves are vaccinated, but not the males since in males theshot causes sterility. 

'What diseases are the vaccines for?'  Worms, in particular the Barber pole wormfrom Africa and Mycoplasma bovis.  Thismay be a naturally occurring organism, but when bison become stressed, itmigrates to the lung and causes thick accumulations of mucus and reducesbreathing.  The bison slowly suffocateand die within three months.  Mycoplasmabovis was first seen in the Ted Turner herd of 60,000 and nearly half died inone year.  Turner funded private researchto develop a bison-specific anti mycoplasma bovis vaccine.  The cattle vaccine would not work onbison.  Vaccines for blackleg and Bovinerespiratory disease may also be administered.

'Do bison die during the roundup?'   Bison freely roam the gentle hills and are only in pens during the annual roundup.   Five to seven bison will die due to stress.  The Tulsa Zoo comes to fetch the bodies which will feed their meat eaters.

Wild Turkey

The population of the American bison is now stable, but theconservation status is 'Near Threatened.'   These wild denizens of the prairie need to betreated with the greatest of respect.