Finishing Bison by Offering a Choice of Feeds and Room to Roam

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Journal of the National Association of County Agricultural Agents





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This paper examines several methods of finishing bison. All studies were conducted on commercial bison operations. In the first study, one group of bison was fed a total mixed ration (TMR); the other group was offered a choice between poor quality grass hay and an energy pellet. In addition, bison fed the TMR were more closely confined than those offered choice. Bison fed choice had higher average daily gain (ADG), lower cost of gain and lower death loss than animals fed the TMR. The second study utilized low, medium, and high-input finishing systems. Bison in the low-put system had the lowest ADG and cost of gain compared to the other two systems. The third study examined bison finished: 1) in a traditional feedlot, 2) with a choice of feeds in loose confinement, and 3) on pasture that were supplemented with a choice of grains. The loose confinement group had the highest ADG than the other groups, but the supplemented pasture group was least costly to finish. The last study looked at a bison feeding operation changing from a TMR to a choice of feeds. Bison offered choice had higher ADG, suffered less illness, and timid animals finished as quickly as more aggressive animals. When finishing bison, offering them a choice of feeds, providing adequate space, and leaving young bison on pasture or rangeland as long as possible provided benefits for producers in terms of lower costs of gain, higher ADG, and reduced illness and death.