February 22, 2016

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Brett managed cattle operations at Zapata Ranch from 2014-6.

During bison works, we wean some calves and bring them down to the lodge corrals.  Here, we train them to electric fence and acclimate them to seeing a person afoot and horseback so that they are gentle and easy to manage.  Once they’re ready, we turn them out to a small pasture where they can graze and learn to follow a feed truck. We keep them in this small pasture as long as we can so we can keep a close eye on them for sickness. The grass is checked weekly to monitor when they need to be moved. That week was this week.

My interns, Caleigh & Megan, and I, checked the fence in our Blanca pasture on Monday. There was a lot of work to be done due to high elk traffic. The repairs took most of the day, but by five o’clock we were ready for the move the next day. We also built a temporary fence to help us get them out of the alley- the small leg of pasture connecting the corrals to the pasture.

We recruited some help from Kate, Jessie, and Julia. The move wasn’t long, but the bison were still young and we had to maneuver a few corners so I was grateful for the extra help. The hardest part of the move was going to be getting the herd through the gates. Originally I had planned to have most of the riders out in front to ensure the bison didn’t just run down the alley but instead moved at a controlled pace.

We had to change things up though as the first gate took a few more riders behind to get them moving. Luckily, they eventually caught on to the feed truck and made their way through. I was the only one out in front as the bison moved at a nice pace down the alley.

The final and trickiest gate we had to go through out of the alley wasn’t in the corner of the fence, but just a few feet north of the corner.  After I assured Julia, our chef, she wouldn’t get run over, I placed her in the true corner of the alley fence so that the bison saw her and realized where the actual fence was.

There were a few stragglers who took some extra time, but our crew kept their cool and used patience more than persistence to allow the remaining bison time to find the gate.  Soon they were all through and in their new home.  I was glad to see that they didn’t run off to go explore, but were content to settle just beside the water and feed on the range cubes that we’d put out for them.

Photography by Jessie Hallstrom

2 replies to “A Bison Move

  1. sam mcneely

    where exactly is the blanca pasture. i’m your neighbor about 8 miles south of you on hwy.150 sam

    1. Tess Leach

      Hey Sam, Sorry for the delay. Check out the post called “Ranch Maps,” which has a map of the Zapata and will show you right where the Blanca is. Thanks for reading!

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