By CATHY MOUNCE
Register Staff Writer
Buffalo myths and misconceptions were dispelled at the Wednesday Rotary Club meeting as Gainesville residents and buffalo experts Tim and Rhonda Frasier spoke on the growing commerciality and resurgence of the legendary animal of the plains, which is also known as bison.
With backgrounds in the horse and cattle industry, the Frasiers have re-dedicated their life work to continue to support the return of an animal that was once hunted to near-extinction in the l880s as it dwindled from millions to just over 1,000 in number by 1890.
Livestock producer and herd consultant Tim Frasier said, “If it wasn’t for the great foresight and hearts of Texans like Charles and Mary Goodnight the endangered species would have been lost forever.”
Frasier stated that buffalo and cutting horses have a long history in the Gainesville area and have crossed paths literally. He presentation featured pictures showing cutting horses working with buffalo with the bison giving way to honor the horse.
Frasier spoke of bison operations in the Gainesville area with the largest one north of the city.
“The largest bison operation is just north of here in Fairfax, Okla. at a production and agricultural facility owned by Ted Turner,” he said.
“When I was called in as a consultant, we were gathering and working over 800 head per day at one time,” he continued.
As a consultant, Frasier is involved in every regional herd in Texas and has a small feeder class operation at his Gainesville ranch.
Regarding the gathering of the buffalo, Frasier continued by saying that with good thinking by handlers, buffalo can actually choose to move themselves through working facilities as reflective colors of brown and white some how encourage them to go through the facility on their own accord.
He jokingly added, “You can make a buffalo to do anything it wants to do.”
As a natural grazer, the buffalo has evolved with the North American plains and is a great ecosystem boost to ranchers who desire to restore the natural grasses indigenous to the area resulting in less handling and labor.
Frasier stated that although beef is still king, the industry has suffered attacks from lots of groups. The sweet power packed buffalo meat on a commercial basis has multiple markets with value added credibility to provide many proven benefits .
Frasier said, “The meat is raised without antibiotics, is non-allergenic, not cloned, additional hormones are not added and it is all natural all of the time. It is the only red meat that vegans will eat.”
“As a food source, it is a lean high protein red meat with less calories and cholesterol than fish or chicken but with a high nutrient density per bite,” he said.
Frasier said that physicians direct diabetics and cardiovascular patients to bison products.
“I can see it becoming a more popular food source,” he said. “When consumers actively participate through supply and demand to bring back the buffalo by purchasing bison, they sustain more and more herds in a commerce-based conservation and restoration model,” Frasier said. “It will help the species on its journey back to fruition.”
Speaking of negative aspects of the buffalo business, Frasier said that buffalo are more expensive to raise and can increase handling costs by as much as 30 percent over cattle. However Frasier believes that the benefits and potential revenue far outweigh the costs.
He said, “Young fed bulls are at $3.90 per pound at hhw (hot hanging weight) with calves at $2.50 to $3.50 live weight. Cull or burger cows & bulls are at $2.50 - $3.10 per pound hhw.”
“Therefore a full load of 45 head of fed bulls weighing 1,150 pounds each can bring over $130,000.”
The future is more promising now for the once dying breed and there are now over 1,000 members of the national Bison Association in all 50 states and 10 foreign countries whose determined mission is to ‘bring together people to celebrate the heritage of the American symbol.’
Natural selection and the bison’s adaptability in extreme environmental conditions helped as the endangered species struggled to return.
“The buffalo thrive on the natural grasses of America and can adapt to extreme conditions unlike many domesticated breeds,” he said.
“I am in no way saying that cattle are bad,” Frasier said in a recent interview, “I’m just saying that bison are good and that the beef industry has become our friendly big brother. We just want to be an alternative for consumers and work to correct misconceptions about the bison that have existed because of myths and misunderstandings for many years.”
Tim has also worked on Texas state bison legislation during the 83rd legislature resulting in Texas bison having protection under the estray law which makes county sheriff offices responsible for rounding up estray livestock and keeping the animals until they can be returned to their owner, auctioned or otherwise disposed of. Also included in the legislation was Concurrent Senate Resolution 20 which makes ‘Texas Bison Week’ official through the year 2022.
He continued, “In May, members of the Texas Bison Association gathered at the Capitol in Austin along with Sen. Craig Estes, Rep. Doc Anderson and Governor Perry along with Bree Worthington and Miko the buffalo for the history making ceremony as Resolution 20 was signed into effect.”
“Texas bison is a growing business,” Tim said. “In Texas there are over 600 bison herds, more than any other state. Today there are over 400,000 American buffalo grazing on lands across the United States and Canada.”
Tim continued, “Although Texas has the most herds, it only ranks fourth in commercial sales but I can see Texas becoming number one in the next few years.”
Frasier sees the key to making buffalo more popular is identifying its benefits to the consumer and hopes to see national legislative action making the buffalo the national mammal of the United States of America.
For more information on bison and products contact Tim and Rhonda Frasier at www.frasierbison.com.