Farm-breeding of bison
The Ditlevsdal Bison Farm has more than 20 years’ experience within bison breeding and, in total we have had about 1000 bison on the farm.
In order to prevent inbreeding, it is important to breed different bloodlines. Today, Ditlevsdal operates with 6 different bloodlines. They are split up into four main herds and into minor herds, thus allowing for continuous crossbreeding. The bison are grouped into family herds and identified by earmarking.
The handling of the bison
The calves are removed from their mothers at the age of approximately 6-9 months. When separated from their mothers, the bison are sorted into bull and heifer calves. The young animals have their own herd, unless they are sold off for breeding. Typically, it is the heifer calves that are sold for breeding, whereas well over 90% of the bull calves will be grazing till ready for slaughter at the age of 2-3 years.
The large trapping pen is an important tool in connection with the sorting, earmarking and veterinary examinations, as the bison cannot be approached on foot. The earmarking takes place simultaneously with the weaning, as it is too risky a procedure to perform on newborn bison. Bison are extremely protective, and for humans to approach a newborn bison calf would be at the risk of their lives. Also, by handling the animals one time only, we avoid stressing them excessively.
The bison are checked on a daily basis
The bison breeder checks his animals on a daily basis. All herds are carefully checked at least once a day – albeit both morning and evening during the calving period as, naturally, birth complications may occur and thus necessitate a helping hand.
We check whether the fur looks fine, whether an animal shows sign of malnourishment, and whether the bison look happy and healthy. If a bison has withdrawn from the herd, this is perceived as a warning sign. Bison will withdraw from their herd if they feel poorly – with the exception of the large bulls that in general rove the area on their own. In the mating season they seek out company during the mating season, though.
What it means to be a bison breeder?
The Bison are amazing animals because of their behaviour, their herd instinct, and the strong ties they establish to other bison. They are playful and when they are happy, it is great fun to look at them. Though considered a breeding animal, the bison differs from other breeding cattle in many ways – the breeding takes place at the animals’ terms. They have a natural agenda – peculiar to the bison and indifferent to human interference. They are wild animals and they live according to their own terms, not the bison breeder’s. It’s a great delight to see that the animals are thriving in this kind of free captivity.