The Bison Advantage Outreach and Education Program
The Bison Advantage Outreach and Education Program is now in its 7th quarter of the project period and the outreach materials proposed in the application are now completed.
These tools consist of the just published Bison Producers’ Handbook – 2nd Edition, a comprehensive book that is packed with information for veteran bison producers and newcomers alike. More than 30 industry experts collaborated to develop nearly 300 pages of useful, readable information on all aspects of bison marketing and production. We even got an endorsement from famed humane animal handling specialist, Dr. Temple Grandin – “An essential source of information for people getting started in the bison industry. It is also a valuable reference for established bison producers.” The book also includes a chapter on holistic bison pasture management, by project team member and certified Holistic Management Education instructor, Roland Kroos.
Accompanying this great learning tool is the bison learning curriculum and the corresponding online training, which we’re calling Bison 301 to compliment our other two preexisting online trainings, Bison 101 and Bison 201. Bison 301 is based on the learning curriculum that the project team developed, designed to introduce extension agents, as well as new and existing livestock producers, to a holistic and sustainable approach to bison ranching. The online training covers everything from the history of the animal and the industry to holistic bison management, and includes case studies of six sustainable bison start-ups from across the country that details their stories on how they got started in the bison business. These tools will prove to be extremely valuable to both train extension agents and agricultural educators about sustainable bison production, while allowing beginning farmers and ranchers the ability to receive an introduction to bison ranching with the convenience of participating from anywhere there’s an internet connection, and they can work through the 6 modules at their own pace and availability. See a list of learning modules in Bison 301 below:
This toolkit of learning resources will provide the adequate training needed to inform and educate stakeholders about this emerging business opportunity in the north central United States. The tools will be further utilized across North America and beyond as more farmers and ranchers explore the bison business. The value of providing this education cannot be understated. The National Bison Association is the leading, united voice of the bison industry, and this project is allowing us to educate current and new producers on humane husbandry, holistic grazing practices and responsible business management, and we could not be more grateful. These tools are ensuring that as we grow our business, we are doing so in a holistic and sustainable manner, which leads to longevity of our business and the species.
May 2016 – The Intertribal Buffalo Council, based in Rapid City, SD is interested in hosting a workshop at a working bison operation among its membership at a location to be determined. This will be a great opportunity to not only reach out to the Native American community, but to foster important working relationships with local extension agents working with tribes across the north central region.
May 2016 – The Illinois/Indiana Bison Association is also interested in hosting a workshop at a working bison operation among its membership at a location to be determined, but which will be close in proximity to Chicago. This should be a well attended workshop given it’s location to Chicago as well as
June 2016 – The holistically managed 777 Ranch in the Black Hills of South Dakota will host a workshop in mid-June to host local extension and other ag educators. The workshop will be a hands on experience in which attendees will be educated on the holistic management of bison, and then shown first-hand the results of a holistically managed bison operation. In addition to area extension, we are also inviting faculty from South Dakota State University to the workshop to expand local outreach as well as new producers in the Black Hills.
June 2016 – The National Bison Association will host its annual summer conference in Elk River, MN this summer and will include a workshop for area extension agents, ag educators, etc. The event typically draws 200 attendees in addition. The workshop will be hosted by Snake River Farm, a holistically managed bison, beef, pork and chicken farm. Again, this location will provide a living, working example of holistically managed bison.
July 2016 – Project Partner Hanna Buffalo Company, located just 50 miles from Kansas City, will host a workshop to interested extension and agricultural educators in July at their holistically managed bison operation. This hands on workshop will exemplify the principals outlined in our educational materials and offer a living example of a holistically managed, small farm operation. The team thought it would be important to not only showcase large scale bison operations, but also smaller, family run operations in which family members work primary jobs in addition to the ranch, as is the case with Hanna Buffalo Company.
August 2016 – Project partner, North Dakota Buffalo Association will collaborate with us on a workshop planned during their summer bison ranch tour, in which approximately 100 attendees tour a variety of working bison operations in North Dakota. One stop will include a workshop for attendees as well as ag educators, extension agents, etc.
September 2016 – Project partner, Cook’s Bison Ranch, located in Wolcottville, Indiana, will host a workshop at their ranch in September. The ranch is located close to Purdue University, and we will target area extension, ag educators, vet students, etc. to host a one day workshop to educate about holistic bison management.
September 2016 – The National Bison Association is working with the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie and the Illinois/Indiana Bison Association to host a workshop at the nature preserve in September. The park’s proximity to Chicago, about 60 miles, will ensure good participation and access to many in our target audience. The park recently added bison to the landscape, which they’re utilizing for grazing management and species restoration. This is a perfect fit for our message on bison production.
In addition to these confirmed workshops, we are working with National Farmer’s Union on an additional workshop in the north central region before the project deadline of September 30, 2016.
The Bison Advantage Outreach and Education Program is on track for the most part and is proving to be a welcome addition to the bison industry’s learning resources. The best practices manual, the bison learning curriculum and the accompanying online training are completed, and we are on track to meet our goal of proposed outreach events.
We have already introduced this new information at four state or regional bison association workshops to existing bison producers, as well as to new farmers and ranchers, and those considering transitioning to bison. The information, the learning tools and the curriculum has been received very well by attendees who continue to face growing consumer demand for healthy, responsibly raised bison meat that challenges the current supply of market ready animals. Initial feedback also indicates that attendees are very appreciative of our efforts to reach out and educate extension agents and other stakeholders who may be misinformed, or uninformed, about the modern-day bison industry.
Our proposed outputs with updated results:
• The first ever, bison-specific curriculum to be utilized by agricultural educators, including colleges and universities, extension agents and other stakeholders to promote and expand holistic and sustainable bison production as an option for new and existing farmers and ranchers across the North Central region;
Update – The project team has developed a curriculum that will benefit the new farmer or rancher to the seasoned expert. The curriculum directly corresponds with the Bison Producer’s Handbook, and the abbreviated Bison 301 online training, to deliver efficient information that will educate and inspire both the educator and the student.
See the curriculum here. Bison Advantage Curriculum 10.09.15
• New, bison-specific, grazing guidelines to be utilized and promoted in the resulting Best-Practices manual and curriculum;
Update – The new Bison Producer’s Handbook and the Bison 301 online training both include the chapter entitled The Pasture Environment, written by project team member and certified holistic management educator, Roland Kroos. The chapter also serves as a protocol for managing bison pastures in a holistic manner, and includes pasture ecology, a how to guide for planting and a step by step guide to developing your own Holistic Grazing Plan.
• A new, bison-specific Best-Practices manual targeted to producers, educators and extension agents in the North Central Region. This manual will be offered in printed format and disseminated at the project’s proposed workshops, and through the NBA’s online store;
Update – The National Bison Association released the Bison Producers’ Handbook – 2nd edition in January to serve as the project’s Best Practices manual and has been disseminated to approximately 1,000 bison producers already. The book will also be mailed to all NCSARE extension coordinators and handed out at the proposed workshops. This comprehensive book is packed with information for veteran bison producers and newcomers alike. More than 30 industry experts have collaborated to develop nearly 300 pages of useful, readable information on all aspects of bison marketing and production. We have been receiving accolades from folks across the industry, including esteemed humane handling expert, Dr. Temple Grandin: “An essential source of information for people getting started in the bison industry. It is also a valuable reference for established bison producers.” – Temple Grandin, author: Improve Animal Welfare: A Practical Approach.
• The Best-Practices manual will also be offered in electronic format utilizing the NBA’s existing online training series to supplement information in its Bison 101 & 201 courses;
Update – The Bison Producer’s Handbook is currently being developed into an e-reader version for use on tablets, etc. and will results in more dissemination of this valuable information. The project team also developed an abbreviated Bison 301 online training for a condensed learning experience that can be utilized via any internet connection and which is further explained in the summary of this report. The addition of Bison 301 will complement our current online training series, Bison 101 and 201, and expand on the knowledge provided.
• At least 10 workshops, 5 in-service extension agent trainings, and 3 field seminars across the North Central Region that will educate and promote networking among new and beginning farmers/ranchers, as well as agricultural educators and extension personnel, utilizing the aforementioned curriculum and associated learning tools.
Update – The project team has participated in five conferences thus far promoting the project and presenting on holistic bison management, described in detail in the following Accomplishments/Milestones section of this report. Further, we have 8 workshops planned in the coming months all of which will take place on working, holistically managed bison farms and ranches. The National Bison Association is currently recruiting all interested extension agents and agricultural educators to attend, as well as new and existing bison producers. The field seminars will consist of a 4 hour workshop that will consist of classroom instruction followed by ranch tours and networking. The learning toolkit developed as a result of this project will be distributed to all attendees.
• Improved working relationships with universities and extension centers in the North Central region, and increased collaboration with the tribal communities across the region as a result of this proposed outreach.
Update – The project is proving to be very beneficial in developing and improving working relationships with a variety of stakeholders. Through the project, the National Bison Association is developing valuable contacts at South Dakota State University, and with extension coordinators across the north central region. Further, we are very pleased to be working with the Intertribal Buffalo Council, who has agreed to collaborate on a workshop focused on educating tribal members about how to holistically manged bison. This comes at a crucial time, as more excess bison from public herds are being donated to tribal groups to develop their own herds at an unprecedented rate. The tribal component to this project is very important, given the bison’s historic and cultural importance to native Americans.
The project has seen a number of accomplishments in it’s first five quarters. In this time, our project team has developed the Bison Producer’s Handbook, the Bison 301 online training, has developed important working relationships, and created an overarching bison-specific curriculum that will allow all agricultural educators to educate interested farmers and ranchers how to properly raise bison in a holistic manner.
The project has also allowed the National Bison Association reach out to an estimated 1,000 farmers and ranchers through outreach events thus far, as detailed below:
April 2015 – NBA executive director Dave Carter and project team member Roland Kroos traveled to Northstar Bison in Wisconsin to present project information and promotion to the Minnesota Buffalo Association’s spring education conference. Roland presented on holistic pasture management for bison, which he details in the new book. Approximately 150 in attendance.
June 2015 – Roland Kroos presented to the attendees of the National Bison Association’s Summer Conference on the topic of holistic bison management to an audience of approximately 200 in Fort Worth, Texas.
October 2015 – The National Bison Association hosted a booth at the annual FFA convention in Louisville, Kentucky where it promoted the new Bison Producer’s Handbook pending release, and facilitated a teacher’s workshop in which 30 FFA advisors and ag educators learned about the bison advantage and the pending learning tools and curriculum that will be made available to all in attendance.
January 2016 – The National Bison Association promoted the Bison Advantage Outreach and Education Program to the attendees of its annual conference in Denver, Colorado. Attendees were also informed of the new learning tools and outreach efforts forthcoming. Approximately 400 in attendance.
February 2016 – The National Bison Association promoted the project and affiliated learning tools and outreach at the Dakota Territory Buffalo Association’s annual conference in Rapid City, SD. Approximately 150 in attendance
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
As the leading national, unified voice of the bison industry, the National Bison Association thinks it’s important to note that the number one learning tool to educate bison producers, the Bison Producers’ Handbook, is based on holistic management thereby allowing the National Bison Association to educate new and existing producers about bison production based on sustainability.
This is a major contribution to our industry and is a direct result of this grant. The market for naturally raised bison meat continues to grow, and continues to challenge the existing supply of bison meat. This niche market has been developed over the last 15 years by educating consumers about what we call the bison advantage; which is essentially providing bison as natural an environment as possible as to utilize their natural instincts that have not been bred out of them, such as lowered metabolism in the winter resulting in less feed expended, calving without human intervention, self-protection from predation and better utilization of feed.
As we promote this relatively new sector of American agriculture to more traditional livestock producers it’s critical that we continue to educate a very holistic approach to bison production, as outlined in this book, thereby ensuring that we continue to in fact practice what we preach and avoid any kind of industrial production of bison. This benefits the animal, the producer, the consumer and the environment.
Crossroads Ranch Consulting
4926 Itana Cir.
Bozeman, MT 59715
Office Phone: 4065223862
Cook’s Bison Ranch, LLC
6165 South 550 East
Wolcottville, IN 46795
Office Phone: 2605850007
Intertribal Buffalo Council
2497 West Chicago Street
Rapid City, SD 57702
Office Phone: 6053949730
PO Box 8303
Rapid City, SD 57709
Office Phone: 6053413620
North Dakota State University
663 Hwy 281 North
Carrington, ND 58421
Office Phone: 7016522951