Available May through September
f you've ever wondered what a herd of buffalo looks like, here's your chance. You can take a pasture tour at "Tumbleweed Bison Ranch" to see the buffalo up close and personal! Be sure to bring your camera, you'll be able to see baby buffalo with their moms and J.D. our herd sire.
It's best to phone ahead (403) 546-2542. We are quite often working on the farm, so if there's no answer please leave a message. We'd be glad to arrange a time for you to visit our farm. Cost: $15 per person.
Having acquired a couple of heifer calves, we then bought a breed bull from our neighbour. His name was Clay. Clay was about 6 years old and a little set in his ways. We had a heavy wooden feed trough with metal legs. One thing I can remember about Clay was that he liked to toss the feed trough around when he was bored. We were about to find out a lot more about Clay's adventurous side.
The first winter Clay was at our place we had a fair amount of snow. The drifts were pretty high along our fences in some areas. That year we took a two week holiday and went to the island of Bonaire in the Dutch Antilles. Our neighbours were keeping an eye on the buffalo while we were gone. I was anxious to get away for a winter holiday, but concerned about our dogs. Perry phoned his Mom & Dad a couple of times to see how the dogs were doing. They said everything was fine.
When we arrived back in Canada, Perry's Mom picked us up at the airport. On the way home we talked about our holiday and we asked if we missed anything exciting back home. Perry's Mom said we didn't miss too much, but one of our buffalo did get out. We were a bit shocked. Which one escaped? She thought the tag number was 66. Oh no, that's Clay's number. As we drove home she elaborated on the travels of Clay, while we were basking in the sun in Bonaire.
We're not sure where he got out. We think the drifts were solid and high enough that he just jumped over the fence. It's a six foot page wire fence, so he may have taken a run at it to get some height. Anyway, he spent some time touring around our yard eating some evergreen trees. Then he headed east down the highway to our neighbours. They were looking out their kitchen window and there was Clay, a 1700 lb. buffalo bull trotting through their yard.
Then he went north to another neighbour who had cattle and some calves in a field next to the highway. He layed down and rested there for a while, and the neighbour watched his calves who were quite curious about this intruder. Clay was content to stay there while the calves frolicked around him. I think that was his little holiday.
Then he left that field and ended up at another cattle farm a few miles north where they managed to get him in some corals. Their kids were amazed and were taking pictures of old Clay. Our good neighbours brought a trailer over, and loaded Clay for the trip home. His little excursion lasted a couple of days. I couldn't believe that one of our animals could get out so easily and that we had such understanding and caring neighbours that would get him back home. In fact one neighbour said it was the highlight of his winter and wondered if we would let him out again. Also Perry's Mom & Dad said nothing about Clay when we phoned and asked about the dogs. There was nothing we could do anyway, but worry, so we're thankful they had everything under control and let us have a much needed holiday.
t's not easy to get away when you have a herd of animals to look after. We're fortunate to have such good neighbours and a caring family behind us.
Every year around calving time, we are frequently peering out our windows to the south, with binoculars, looking for the first baby buffalo. Usually, the cows will calve at the far south end of our property, and with binoculars we can see what's going on. Most of the time, the cow that's preparing to give birth will go off by herself. That's a sure sign that she's ready to calve. She wants to bond to her calf, which is much easier when no one else is around.
For some reason, it's a special time every year, when that first little cinnamon coloured buffalo is spotted in the field and we always look forward to it, with great anticipation.
It's the 23rd of April, and it could happen any day. It's a typical weekday around 6:00 pm. Supper is almost ready. The table is set; we're just waiting for the vegetables to be cooked. With the binoculars always handy, I make a quick check in the field. The whole herd is right up at the north end of the field, 100 ft. from the house, all lying down - all but 2 cows. I nonchalantly scan the group not expecting anything unusual, but one of the cows standing up has the big white bag hanging from her back end! She's going to calve. Right here in front of us!
It usually takes about half an hour for a calf to be born, so I have time to grab the camera. But if I open our door and go out to take a picture she'll definitely hear me and maybe get spooked and run. So, I dish up our supper and I have both the camera and the binoculars within reach. It's quite the sight. She lies down, has a few contractions, gets up, lies down, more contractions etc. etc. Eventually the birthing starts, and then the rest of the herd get up and come over to her. Then that slimy looking bag drops out and a calf is born. It struggles and kicks and pretty soon the bag has broken and the little calf takes its first breath. The cow is immediately licking the little buffalo and there are other cows around too. After some substantial licking and prodding, the little calf struggles to get on all fours. It takes a few attempts, but at last it's standing. Our breed bull J.D. comes over and roughly pushes the helpless little calf and down it goes. More attempts to stand up and at last it takes a few steps: a new generation on the Tumbleweed Farm.
It's a beautiful walk and we hardly ever see a vehicle. It makes walking the dog so enjoyable, no traffic and we often see the buffalo close to the fence. Our pasture has gently rolling hills with small indents in the land. It's like nature has made little sleeping areas for the bison calves.
This particular day was bright and sunny. The wild sage along the ditches filled the air with a wonderful scent and the buffalo were grazing quietly on the hill. Quite often I see something interesting with the buffalo and wish I had my camera handy, and of course on this day, I had left the camera at home. One of my favorite cows – Fifteen Orange – was standing close to her calf who appeared to be sound asleep on the side of the hill in one of the many divets. It was a peaceful scene, almost a little too peaceful. I stopped and watched for a few minutes and waited to see if I could see any movement of the calf – a tail swishing, or the rise and fall of breathing on the calves chest. There appeared to be none, and so I yelled at the pair. Still nothing, so I yelled again, louder. Wake up!! It seemed the calf had died, and her mother – Fifteen Orange – was staying close to her. It's normal for a cow to stay close to her calf after it has died. It wasn't the first calf we had lost that year, but it still made me sad. I decided to continue my walk with Marty. There was nothing I could do anyway.
After we turned around for our walk home, I wasn't looking forward to seeing the poor dead calf again, but to my surprise the calf was standing up and drinking eagerly from her mother. I guess some babies are really sound sleepers. It was sure a relief to see a healthy buffalo calf.
Although we are animal lovers, we don't name our cows, but each one does have a distinct personality and traits that when you spend enough time around them, makes them individuals. And so, we know them by their tag numbers. Seven Blue is no exception.
One day, on our inspection of the herd, we noticed one cow that had a single strand of wire wrapped around her neck and about 30 ft. dragging behind her. Sometimes with animals, now matter how hard you try to keep them safe, they get into trouble, and yes, this certainly was trouble. Although we handle our animals as little as possible, there are times when you need to intervene, and this was one of them. We had to save Seven Blue.
Our "catch" pen is the main starting point for most of the situations where we have to handle an animal. It's a round shaped pen with one gate to enter and exit. After letting Seven Blue and a few others in the "catch" pen, we had to let the others out, while keeping Seven Blue in.
Oddly enough, she hung back, somehow knowing what we were trying to do. All the others were let out, with just Seven Blue and her wire dragging along behind her. With buffalo, the idea is to get behind them and usually they will go the other direction unless they feel trapped, and then they will fight to live. The gate was wide open and Perry was quietly walking behind Seven Blue. She didn't want to leave the pen at first, and it took a few trips around the pen, before she decided it was the way out.
The rest of our handling system is a series of smaller pens operated with gates and pulleys. At the end of the system are 3 small box stalls and a weigh pen, until finally a squeeze where the animal can be held still for tagging or any veterinary work.
Seven Blue, after leaving the round catch pen, went through all the pens, box stalls and into the squeeze with no difficulty. In the squeeze, a quick snip of the wire, and we were done. Seven Blue was saved with no injuries and very happy to get back out with the herd.
Although I realize we are dealing with farm animals and not pets, I still feel bad when they are in distress. I take things a little harder than Perry. When we were finished I was exhausted. I said, "Boy I could sure use a drink". Perry's reply was: "Wow that was really fun." I'm gonna finish cutting the grass." The whole thing, from the time we let Seven Blue and the rest in the round pen, took about 20 minutes. That day I learned having a handling system that works well is an essential tool in caring for our animals.
Later that year Seven Blue had a healthy heifer calf, and she's still part of our herd.