A home where the buffalo roam

Bison roam a wild grass pasture at Sleepy Bison Acres south of Sleepy Eye.

In fall 2013, Elizabeth and Craig Fischer got an unusual wedding gift, a bison cow, with an agreement they would buy another bison from their mentors at the Big Shaggy Buffalo Farm near Byron.

A few weeks later, two days after Thanksgiving, the Fischers bought more bison at the Annual Minnesota Buffalo Association Auction in Albany.

“I spend Black Friday sorting buffalo. My wife shops in St. Cloud,” Craig Fischer said about the family’s annual trip north.

“It snowballed from there,” Fischer said. “The market is pretty strong. Bison are a niche market in a profitable position.”

The Fischers have 37 bison, the biggest herd in this part of Minnesota.

Craig Fischer looks over some of the free range chickens at Sleepy Bison Acre Farm. Located in Stark Township, Sleepy Bison Acres farm does things the old-fashioned way; no chemical, pesticides, synthetic fertilizer, growth hormones, steroids or unnecessary antibiotics.

Fischer said most bison are raised in the U.S. and Canada, but overseas interest in bison is increasing.

He said U.S. plains bison are raised in Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Mexico.

“We market our own bison. We could sell bison to a USDA processing facility in New Rockford, North Dakota. There are other places in western South Dakota and Colorado,” Craig said.

As the weather warms up each spring, bison shed hair that can be made into yarn.

“Their hair is so thick, they are not stressed by the cold. Not even if it’s 60 degrees below zero F.,” Fischer said. “They could have a pile on snow on their back, but it won’t melt. Their hair lies down flat, keeping them warm.”

Free-range chickens roam the Sleepy Bison Acres farm yard.

Bison down is comparable to good cashmere, soft and cozy, lightweight and durable, and only gets softer with wear. It also wicks water, doesn’t shrink, has no known allergies and is not hollow or have barbs like wool.

Bison meat is also rated high with less fat than beef, lower in cholesterol than chicken, and high in protein, making it a healthy alternative to more commonly consumed meats. It is best cooked slowly over low heat, according to Livestrong.

Fischer feeds his bison ditch hay and wild pasture grass. He said bison can be challenging to work with.

“They go where they want to go,” Fischer said.

He said good fences are very important. The Fischers bought a semi load of old, steel highway guard rail in Iowa and used it as bison fencing.

Bison hair is very thick, keeping them warm at all times. It is considered very good yarn.

No barn or artificial shelter is needed as bison live long, productive lives. They typically calve into their 20’s. They are efficient feed utilizers and calving rarely needs human intervention and are considered hardy and disease resistant, resulting in lower input costs.

Anyone interested in raising bison is recommended to visit established bison producers in their area to understand the options for types of operations, fencing, corrals, pastures and similar things.

Education and networking is available.

The Fischers offer bison, pastured meat chickens, free-range chicken eggs and homestead style pork. Bison roam a wild grass pasture at Sleepy Bison Acres, south of Sleepy Eye. Free-range chickens road the farm yard.

For more information, visit www.mnbison.org.

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