The Bison Advantage Outreach and Education Program

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2014: $103,675.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2016
Region: North Central
State: Colorado
Project Coordinator:
Jim Matheson
National Bison Association

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Animals: bovine


  • Animal Production: feed formulation, free-range, feed rations, grazing management, pasture fertility, pasture renovation, range improvement, grazing - rotational
  • Education and Training: demonstration, display, extension, farmer to farmer, mentoring, networking, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: agricultural finance
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement, wildlife
  • Pest Management: biological control, chemical control, cultural control, eradication, physical control, prevention
  • Production Systems: holistic management
  • Soil Management: nutrient mineralization, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: leadership development

    Proposal abstract:

    Rising demand for bison meat is creating opportunity for farmers and ranchers to raise bison as an economically viable and environmentally sustainable enterprise in the North Central region. Bison are ideally suited for variable climatic conditions and landscape as evidenced by the early October blizzard that killed an estimated 40,000 cattle in South Dakota in 2013. Only 40 bison were reported lost in that storm.

    Yet, bison remain a small segment of the U.S. livestock sector. Slightly more than 60,000 bison were harvested in the U.S. in 2013, versus 125,000 cattle slaughtered daily.

    Opportunities in bison ranching are increasing because producers have established market-based relationships with their customers. A growing number of consumers purchase bison because the great tasting meat is sourced from ranchers who raise their herds with respect for the animal’s natural instincts and interaction with the environment. Bison isn’t just a natural meat; it is the native meat of the North America. The Bison Advantage Outreach and Education Program will expand the ability of producers in the North Central region to increase their economic sustainability by strengthening their connection with the people who value great taste, nutrition, environmental stewardship and humane husbandry. Resources provided through this grant will enable the NBA to expand education and outreach through a three-fold approach:

    • The project’s first objective is to create a bison-specific curriculum that agricultural educators, particularly extension agents, can utilize to educate the next generation of producers.
    • The second objective is to support bison-specific research on pasture management protocols with partner ranches.
    • The third objective will be to develop a Best Practices manual for producers to utilize in the production of their animals.

    The project also includes 15 workshops to provide curriculum-based workshops to producers and educators across the region.

    Project outputs will include the aforementioned curriculum that includes new range and pasture guidelines for farmers and ranchers. Telling the natural production story is a significant part of marketing bison to meet the expectations of customers for healthy, natural meat. It enhances the willingness of customers to pay the true cost of responsibly-raised meat. The Best Practices manual will provide a valuable resource for grower’s to utilize in the stewardship of their herds. The SARE grant support will enable the NBA to reach out to at least 1,000 producers and educators across the region, who will benefit from the education being offered and protocols being developed.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The outreach efforts of the proposed Bison Advantage Outreach and Education Project will educate 1,000 farmers and ranchers across the North Central region on the many advantages of raising bison.

    These outcomes will result in a multitude of learning and action outcomes.

    Learning outcomes will include:
    • New and existing producers, and agricultural educators, will gain new, valuable knowledge about raising bison as livestock in today’s farm economy. Current bison producers will gain new knowledge about proper grazing practices for bison, as well as range management practices that will sustain pastures and support bison.
    • Producers’ awareness about bison production as a viable agriculture endeavor will be raised, with a focus on Native Americans. Awareness will also be raised among existing bison producers about proper grazing practices that will benefit both their herds and the land.
    • As a result of this project, agricultural educators, with a focus on extension agents, will gain knowledge about this emerging sector of American agriculture, and thus, be better to assist new farmers and ranchers.
    • The project will change attitudes about raising bison as livestock as a profitable ranching endeavor in the North Central region among agricultural educators from vocational teachers to university professors to extension agents.

    Action outcomes will include:
    • The holistic management education and outreach offered in this proposal will change the behavior and actions of existing bison producers across the North Central region. Holistic management is a significant focus for the project. Certified holistic management educators will be utilized in outreach, to expand the ability of producers to ranch for profitability while improving their lands simultaneously.
    • The project will result in an increase in educators teaching farmers and ranchers how to raise bison. Targeted educators will include vocational teachers, university professors, tribal leaders, extension agents, FFA/4H advisors, etc.
    • Through education and outreach, the 15 proposed workshops, the pasture and rangeland management guidelines, and the online tutorials, will enable more farmers and ranchers to raise bison in the region utilizing a holistic approach.
    • The project also has the potential to improve the land and soil conditions of the North Central region by educating land stewards about holistic management practices that will sustain their land and animals.
    • Through the development of a Best Practices manual, the National Bison Association will expand its ability to disseminate to producers the information and knowledge gained through this project.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.