Bison horn in on meat market

BISON, the massive beasts from the plains of the American West, are now roaming the Northern Rivers.

Eleven of the even-toed ungulates – 10 heifers and a bull – can now be seen happily grazing on 480 hectares at Myrtle Creek, near Main Camp.

The property, Aranyani, is owned by Gold Coast builder Damen Wells and managed by Myrtle Creek local Terry Lloyd.

Mr Lloyd said the plan was to breed up the herd and begin supplying their meat as a niche product.

“We hope to have 10 calves on the ground by the end of the year,” he said.

Mr Lloyd expects to have stock to slaughter in two years.

Almost two-metre high paddock fences with a hot-wire have been constructed for the bison, while the yards have been blacked out so the animals remain calm while being handled.

“They are really quiet, but they don’t like being handled,” Mr Lloyd said.

One strategy to get the bison used to being handled is hand-feeding them small amounts of grain, which Mr Lloyd currently does.

Females can weigh as much as 600kg, while the males can weigh more than a tonne.

“They can jump a six-foot fence from standing,” Mr Lloyd said.

He said bison, also known as American buffalo, were resilient animals which could survive extremes of temperature.

The meat was ‘slightly gamey’, Mr Lloyd said.

“It’s like a cross between cattle and kangaroo. It is beautiful-tasting meat,” he said.

Mr Lloyd said the bison could be processed at the Northern Co-operative Meat Company in Casino, and he expected it would return a higher price than beef.

Challenges for the bison are buffalo fly, for which the herd is currently wearing ear-tags, and their susceptibility to ticks.

Unlike beef cattle, the young bulls do not need to be marked until they are three years old.

The herd was purchased from a stud in Victoria, which began breeding after importing bison from the US in the 1970s.

In the US, bison farmers wereunable to meet the demand for the product, Mr Lloyd said.

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