Gainesville Daily Register

Features

May 21, 2012

Texas Buffalo

Nearly extinct, bison are coming back strong in Texas

Gainesville — Livestock producer Tim Frasier’s introduction to American Bison began

with a family pet.

“Years ago, my wife Rhonda got, as a pet, a single buffalo,” Frasier

said. “ His name was Boo Boo. That’s what brought to my attention the

fact that you could get along with bison.”

Frasier — who earned an applied science degree in livestock technology

— is an advocate for the rugged, often-misunderstand animals.

He is also a bison production consultant and a proponent for the

nutritional and ecological benefits of raising bison.

“I have consulted clear across the state of Texas and up into the

North. I went and helped the only herd of bison in the state of

Hawaii. I helped them configure pens...I showed them how to humanely

and effectively handle their bison herd.”

Frasier said his main focus is the welfare of bison.

“It sounds like an adventure, but at the end of the day, it’s all

about taking care of animals and facilitating the needs of somebody

who needs help raising them,” he said.

Watching the buffalo herds in pens near their Cooke County home,

Rhonda Frasier and Tim Frasier speak of their livestock with affection

and a reverence that comes from years of observation and interaction

with the species.

Neighbors sometimes stop and watch the herds, lulled by scenes so

majestic they look like they belong in a Charles M. Russell painting.

Rhonda Frasier — who operates the couple’s cutting horse business —

said the notion that buffalo are intellectually inferior to other

livestock is false.

An adult female buffalo named Trixie lives up to her name — shaking or

nodding her head in response to commands and, in some cases,

retrieving objects or giving the couple kisses on demand.

“They’re smart,” Rhonda Frasier said. “Treat them with respect.”

Bison are also resilient and can be used in place of calves for

training cutting horses, she added.

One doesn’t have to look far to find a buffalo herd.

Tim Frasier said bison are in “every nook and cranny of the United States.”

He believes Texas is poised to become the number one bison producer in

the nation.

Texas already has more bison farms than any other state, but most of

the approximately 618 Texas bison herds are relatively small.

“The bison population per (Texas) farm is low,” he said. “The number

one producing state is South Dakota, but within five to 10 years,

Texas could become the leading bison producing state.”

Right now, bison numbers are on the rise in North America.

“The combined population of bison in Canada and the U.S. is

approximately 450,000 to 500,00 total animals. ” Frasier said.

Most U.S. bison live on private ranches.

“Private bison-producer operations make up 93 percent of the current

species population,” Tim Frasier said.

American bison have a tumultuous history.

Information on the American National Bison Association website, states

 bison migrated from Asia into America via the Bering Strait land

bridge around 25,000 years ago.

The self-reliant newcomers flourished in the North American Great

Plains, growing into behemoths with massive statues of six to eight

feet at the shoulder or hump.

Bison herds provided food, shelter and other life essentials for

indigenous people such as the Plains Indian tribes, and took on

spiritual significance for many native cultures.

The Indians devised ways to use almost every part of the bison. Meat

that could not be immediately consumed was preserved.

The megaherbivores’ bones were used as tools. Their heavy hides made

durable covers for the floors of living quarters. Bison sinew could be

used to bind and secure clothing, tent covers and household items.

The invention of gunpowder, the use of horses by native people for

hunting and the proliferation of settlement into the Great Plains

almost spelled extinction for bison.

By 1885, fewer than 1,000 bison were alive in the United States, the TBA states.

Not all ranchers and settlers participated in the wholesale slaughter

of the American bison. Some, including West Texas cattleman Charles

Goodnight and his wife, Marry Anne, initiated bison conservation

efforts such as capturing buffalo to help protect and preserve the

herds.

These and other conservation initiatives along with the 1894 Lacey Act

— which toughened laws against bison poachers — helped prevent the

annihilation of the buffalo.

Natural selection and the bison’s own tenacity also played a role in

the buffalo’s resurgence.

Part of their success is the buffalo’s ability to adapt to extreme

environmental conditions.

“Science has anointed them the most successful large animal in the

history of the planet,” Tim Frasier said. “The buffalo are a natural

response to the evolution of grass in North America.”

As a healthy food source, bison is second to none, he said.

“The number one thing about bison is that people who like it, love

it,” Frasier said. “Bison compares to beef as a red meat. That

comparison would include things like it has less calories, less

cholesterol than skinless chicken or fish, more nutrient density per

bite, higher protein content per gram.”

Bison is also appropriate for individuals with certain dietary

restrictions, he added.

“It’s widely known that physicians will direct their diabetic and

cardiovascular patients to the product of bison,” Frasier said. “Bison

is also, to our knowledge, completely non-allergenic.”

Bison byproducts are also sometimes used in pet foods.

Frasier said bison consumption helps increase the buffalo population.

“The demand by consumers of the product is and has been the very best

vehicle for the restoration of the species,” he said. “When you buy a

brick of bison, you are supporting a buffalo herd and doing your part

to bring back and stabilize the species.”

From an ecological standpoint, bison are good stewards of the land.

“They are absolutely an uncontestable eco-integrity agent for the

reason that the eons selected them, not us,” Tim Frasier said. “They

are natural. They are indigenous. There’s an environmental impact that

is positive where bison roam.”

Bird habitats, for instance, thrive with the introduction of bison.

“Quail is a big business in Texas and grazing bison have a positive

impact on quail,” he said. “ Bison shed their top coats this time of

year and that’s related to bird nest building. In the case of quail in

large grass stands, bison provide trails and leave residue in plant

matter and help the birds hide from predators. When (bison) graze a

water source, they leave forage in that area and provide additional

protection from predators.”

Frasier said every aspect of bison compares favorably to beef, but

said he has nothing against American staples such as beef steak and

beef burgers. The products can and need to coexist without any

negatives, he added.

“ In no way do I want to infer that cattle are bad,” Frasier said.

“I’m just saying bison are good. The beef industry is our friendly,

productive big brother. We just hope to be an alternative for

consumers.”

He also consults with another Cooke County resident — Texas Ecolox

founder, Ben Tyler.

“I’m not a scientist,” Frasier said. “I have a degree in livestock

technology but I am absolutely into doing something more with my life

than breathing in and out. I feel like bison are a good thing to do

for everything...I’m on a constant learning curve and that’s the fun.

Texas Bison need all the friends they can get for the purpose of

mitigating misunderstanding, myth and negative situations that are a

result of the latter.”

For more information on the Texas Bison Association visit

www.texasbison.org or contact Tim Frasier with Frasier Bison LLC at

TBEFrasier@aol.com.

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