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September 06, 1974 - Image 20

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1974-09-06

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. Page Eight-S

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Friday, September 6, 1974

Page Eight-B THE MICHIGAN DAILY Friday1 September 6, 1 97~1

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EDITOR'S NOTE - Ranchers
who started raising buffalo as a
hobby have found that the sym-
bol of the American West out-
sells a beef cow. Buffalo meat is
in demand, and private herds
are providing it. Some ranchers
wish beef cattle had more buf-
falo traits.
By STEVE MOORE
Associated Press Writer
HELENA, Mont. (A)--The buf-
falo market is bullish.
Here on the high plains of the
Rocky Mountain country, ranch-
ers whomstarted raising buffalo
as a novelty or hobby now find
they have some valuable beasts
romping around.
Markets and restaurants are
ordering buffalo meat in record
amounts.
Bob Schall, a Montana rancher
-one of a handful raising buf-
falo--is still kicking himself for
liquidating part of his herd in
recent years. Prices are up,
demand unprecedented.
Great herds of buffalo, num-

bering an estimated 20 million
in the mid-1800s, once roamed
this couintry. Thy were slaigh-
tered for their hides and for
meat as settlers moved West.
Historians said there were only
551 in 1889 when the federal
government took emergency
action to save them from ex-
tinction.
Roy Houck, president of the
National Buffalo Association,
who operates a 50,000-acre buf-
falo ranch west of Pierre, S. D.,
said there are about 30,000 buf-
falo in this country today. About
5,000 of them are on refuges or
in federal parks-=1,000 in Yel-
lowstone National Park, about
500 in Wichita Wildlife Refuge
at Cache, Okla., 400 at the Na-
tional Bison Range in Montana
and smaller herds at other na-
tional parks in the West.
The rest are owned privately.
Houck, who believes he is the
nation's largest buffalo feeder
with a herd of 3,500--not in-

1-Jilg this year's calf crop-
said h re are 20,000 buffalo in
anada.
If a rancher can keep the
synbol of the American West
behind stout fences, odds are
there's money to be made. But
keeping them fenced isn't easy.
Large bulls have been known to
reach 3,000 pounds. The average
buffalo weighs from 1,600 to
2,000 poiinds and roams con-
stantly over great stretches of
grassland.

recent years but cut the herd
to about 50 on the 6,000-acre
raich he operates on the Flat-
head Indian Reservation south
If the National Bison range.
"I got started in this as, a.
hobby, but the buffalo have been
real good for the ranch," he
said. Schall recently shipped
some heifer calves to Idaho for
about $400 each. He has cus-
tomers in Washington as well,
and in his own region.
"One man runs a restaurant

for cormercial purposes, in any
volurne, began 10 to 12 years
ago. It started on a'Wyoming
ranch where the neat was sold
to Safewav stores and then in
Custer State Park, S.D., where
it was sold to Red Owl stores.
He operates his own slaughter
and processing plant. Some of
the meat is processed at USDA-
inspected plants, such as one in
Rapid City, S.D., but Houck
noted buffalo is still considered
"a wild animal," and restr ic-

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"I (a rancher can keep the symbol of the American West behind
s'out fences, odds are there's money to be made."

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Schall said raising buffalo has
neen akin to a poker game and
he lost one hand. "If I'd seen
this increased demand I prob-
ably would have fenced a little
better and not liquidated.",
He had about 150 animals in

in East Port, Idaho, and he's on tion are not as stringent as those
me all the time for buffalo. for slaughtering beef cattle, al-
Right now he has some deal on though all commercial outlets
for the World's Fair (Expo '74 are state-inspected.
in Spokane, Wash.) and he wants Houck said some people not
some more," Schall said. knowledgable about buffalo had
Houck said buffalo slaughter been critical of their commer-
.-- cial' slaughter "because it ap-

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662-3201

pears to be cutting down on
their numbers." That is un-
true, he ysaid.
"Most slaughter animals are
surplus males and old cows.
All producing females are kept.
I don't know of any productive
animals used for slaughter any-
where," he said.
A spokesman fro the National
Bison Range said the entire herd
there probably could be sold at
a moment's notice. In 1969, the
range sold 79 buffalo which
brought an average price of
$368.48 a head.
Victor May, range foreman,
said the 70 buffalo moved
through the auction ring this
year brought an average of
over $500 each.
Pound for pound, buffalo meat
sells at prives 25 to 50 per cent
higher than beef. A grass-fed
buffalo is slaughtered at 3 to
4 years of age. Grain-fed cattle
go to market when they're two.
"They're a pretty good piecef
of merchandise," May said.
Aside from the meat demand,a
there is money in buffalo heads
and hides. He estimated current
sales of cull animals could be
doubled or tripled overnight.
Houck said his business is
"very good. Demand is way in'
excess of supply and the prob-
lem is distribution." He said
some distributors are leery of
adding buffalo beef to their pro-
duct line for fear the supply
will run out..
He began buffalo ranching in
1958. His son, Jerry, said sales
I of buffalo meat at $1.35 a poundi
for the hind quarter are at least
25 per cent higher than for a
comparable beef quarter. Hez
said most ranch sales are to

private purchasers and chain
stores.
The Drhari Meat Co., San
Jose, Calif., lists Safeway, Red
Owl, National Tea and Albert-
son's supermarket chains as
large customers fora buffalo
meat.
Bud Flocchini, vice president
and nart owner of Durham, said
his firm also has buffalo beef
available by mail order in rel-
atively small quantities. It sells
for %4.90 a pound for boneless
buffalo steak, 54.10 a pound for
T-bone steak, $2.50 -for roasts,
52.85 for stew meat and $1.50
for groind buffalo burger.
The California company oper-
ates a buffalo ranch of 50,000
acres near Gillette, Wyo.,, feed-
ing about 3,000 head.
In many instances, Flocchini
said, buffalo meat sells 50 per
cent higher than a comparable
cut of beef.
Jim Salmond, his brother, and
father operate a 60,000-acre
ranch west of Choteu on the east
side of the Continental Divide
where their 75 buffalo roam be-
tween the. Sn and Teton rivers.
"They inst travel wherever
they want to go. They're on the
move all the time," he said.
The herd is down from 120
ani-nals in previous years and
the Salmfonds are rebuilding be-
ca-se of demand.
The Salmonds recently sold
1.000 pounds of buffalo bull meat
to Japan at; $1 a pound. At the
time, that was about 40 per
cent more than the same amount
of beef would have brought.
Salmond said the Japanese
prchaser planned a banquet.
"They wanted a kind of wild
meat and buffalo was about the
only thing big enough. We've
sold them from Chicago to
Georgia to Seattle to California
-just all over the country," he
said.
Buffalo have qualities stock-
growers are trying to breed into
beef cattle, he said: "An .extra
rib, longer loins, everything."
Some purchasers are allowed
to hunt their own animals in the
fall, shooting them from the
herd and letting ranch opera-
tors handle the meat.
Salmond said beef cattle fre-
quently are scared silly of buf-
falo. His small herd migrates
north in spring and south in fall,
enclosed by 6-foot barbed, wire
fences.
The Jack Gehring Ranch
northwest of Helena supports 28
buffalo along with cattle herds.
The family started raising ,the
animals in 1959 as a novelty.
Jack Gehring Jr. said the
animals now sell for $750 each-
the price including the valu-
able head and hide,

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