By Kristine Kern
Review Staff Writer
When driving up to Chris and Stacey Kremer’s house southeast of Reading you are met by an unusual sight. Over 100 buffalo filling the pens around the farm.
Chris started raising buffalo in 1991 after his brother Chad did some research on buffalo and convinced Chris this would be a wise investment. Chris started out with five buffalo for breeding stock, including a couple of cows from Blue Mounds outside of Luverne. He now has 30 cows and 2 bulls for breeding stock and tries to feed out 200 buffalo a year for meat production. His goal is to feed out 500 a year. Chris’ brother Chad is now the Buffalo Herd Manager at Custer State Park. The park is home to about 1,500 buffalo, one of the largest publicly held herds in the world.
Chris and Stacey took us out to the pasture to where their breeding stock spends the summer. The sight of a herd of buffalo running across the hills to us made me think, how awesome it must have been when herds of up to 4 million animals covering an area 50 miles long and 20 miles wide would come across the plains. Up until the 19th century as many as 60 million buffalo covered the landscape of North America. By 1891, the United States population of buffalo was reduced to around 540. With much determination to protect this magnificent animal from extinction early conservationists and ranchers worked diligently to raise the buffalo numbers. Recent data shows their numbers are now over 350,000 in public and private herds.
Chris states “buffalo are easier to raise than cattle. I’m not out there babysitting during calving season. I haven’t had to pull a calf yet.” Chris does add “you do need better fencing than with cattle, we have learned not to force them into a pen. It’s easier on everyone to trick them into it with feed and treats.” Buffalo can run up to 30 miles per hour and can jump over 6 feet.
Buffalo can live 25 to 30 years and will reproduce that whole time. Overall a pretty good long term investment.
Chris is on the board of the Minnesota Buffalo Association and also belongs to the National Bison Association. The Kremer’s attended the International Bison Association convention last week. The Association meets every seven years and is dedicated to promoting the preservation, production and marketing of the american bison. This years welcome speaker was business entrepreneur Ted Turner who was recognized for his work with preserving the bison.
Over 250,000 of the 350,000 bison raised are being raised for human consumption. The meat is all natural with no growth hormones or stimulants added to the feed or to the bison. Chris signs an affidavit when he sends them to market that no hormones or stimulants are used. Bison meat is lower in fat, cholesterol and calories than beef, pork, and chicken. the Kremers send most of their buffalo to Rapid City or Bridgewater, South Dakota for market. The market for the meat is steadily growing as people become more educated about the benefits of buffalo meat and the taste of the meat. As our ancestors discovered their hides make the warmest coats and the strongest leather.
Chris and Stacey have a menagerie of animals from chickens and turkeys to goats and miniature donkeys however, the buffalo with their history and presence is what immediately captures your attention. Sitting in their pasture watching this majestic animal you can only imagine a time when millions of these magnificent animals lived and roamed on these plains.