My name is Mary Lee Riddle
and for some reason I have always been fascinated with buffalo. However, I never dreamed one day I would own some.
Dallas, my husband, was in Georgia on business in 1994, and visited with a gentleman who owned sixteen buffalo. Knowing how much I liked them Dallas gave him his card and asked the gentleman to give him a call. Instead the gentleman called me that same night and I agreed to purchase one bull that we named Mr. Whitethorn and nine cows. The purchase price per cow was $1,500.00.
When Dallas got home from his trip he was concerned as we had 120 head of cattle on 200 acres and were about to add Mr. Whitethorn and nine buffalo maidens to the mix. We had no idea how to raise buffalo. Fortunately, we were able to contact David Sydurk who was the manager of another buffalo herd. David educated us on how to build sturdy corrals and handling chutes and purchase all of the necessary equipment for properly raising buffalo. When we learned about the demand and prices paid for buffalo, we purchased an additional 15 head from David.
We decided to sell all of the cattle, and over the next 5-7 years we were able to sell in excess of $100,000.00 per year of the buffalo primarily as breeding stock. We slaughtered some for our own consumption and gave away some of the meat to friends and family. We were also able to sell the rest of the meat to interested consumers. We now have some steady customers and are expanding our meat sales to local and regional restaurants.
Believe it or not, Buffalo are much easier to raise and maintain than cattle. They are easy to care for, handle and eat one third less. They will not strip a pasture to the ground as cattle do. Our buffalo eat only grass, corn and hay. We have four primary breeding bulls with great pedigrees. Every cow gets pregnant each year and nine months later we have a beautiful baby calf.
Within about three days the calf is eating grass and hay. Buffalo do not require any help during the birthing process nor do they allow it.
When pregnant we feed the cows a special corn kernel which is guaranteed not to harm them and is nutritious to the new born calf. When the calf is born we feed it the same corn kernel and grass. We use no growth hormones or steroids. Buffalo meat is delicious and good for you , high in protein and low in cholesterol with no fat.
Buffalo gain weight rapidly. At two years old the average weight of a bull is between 1,100 and 1,300 pounds. At five years the average weight is between 2,000 and 2,200 pounds. Some of the bulls as well as the cows weigh in excess of 1,000 to 1,300 pounds and will come up to the truck and eat bread from my hand. Buffalo are fascinating animals. However, you must remember that buffalo are not domesticated like cattle.
To get them from pasture to corral we must first hook a vehicle or tractor to a feed sled and let them eat for a while. They will then follow the fed sled to the corrals. You cannot round buffalo up as you can cattle. We have 150 acres fenced and cross-fenced allowing us 14 pastures. The fencing is high tensile with five strands, two to three that are hooked to electricity. In ten years we have only had one animal get loose.
We have never had a problem with them charging us or the vehicle. If you get too close they will just walk away. Buffalo always face you and know when you are there. It is very difficult to sneak up on a buffalo herd. Buffalo are very protective of each other especially the little calves. If one starts “bawling” the rest of the herd comes to its aid.
Fortunately during the past ten years we have had no health problems with our buffalo. We have a veterinarian that checks them out twice a year. This is done once in the Spring when he administers shots for protection of parasites, viruses and flies, and once in the Fall at which time we are weaning the new calves. When we ship our animals out of state, the vet does blood testing for brucellosis and tuberculosis and certifies them free and clean.
Great Spirit created this wonderful animal to feed the original indigenous people of North America. The Native People of this country depended on this animal for sustenance. Every part of the animal was used. The meat for eating, the hides for clothing, protection, housing and warmth, the hooves and bone for utensils, the bladder for water containers, the skull for ceremonial purposes and so on. Not one part of the animal was wasted. It was considered a sacred gift and waste was unthinkable. Even our forefathers would have had a very hard time surviving without the buffalo. Unfortunately the vast herds of the North American continent were almost completely wiped out during the Indian Wars in the late 1800’s.
We, as others, are trying to replenish these herds and bring back the original gift to the people. Our herd numbers 100 plus and we are offering to sell these animals for breeding purposes and meat sales. Our meat is USDA approved and vacuum packaged. We can ship anywhere in the United States overnight with guaranteed satisfaction.
In closing, I would like to say that this truly is a satisfying and rewarding business that a woman can operate, really enjoy, and still be financially rewarding.