Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 16

Left: Melanie and Sonny started their ranch in 1999 after visiting a bison farm in Seymour and learning about the animal's lean meat. Right: The
Shannons maintain a herd of about 50 head on the ranch. Calves never stray too far from the cows, especially when new visitors arrive.
they won't challenge it."
'37 and was all Arkansas stone. It was kind of unique."
Over the years, Sonny has discovered many winning
Once they moved in, the Shannons started their ranch
attributes that he believes make bison easier to raise than
with 13 bison calves. By the early 2000s, they were able
cattle.
to start selling their bison meat. However, there wasn't as
"They really have no problem calving," Sonny says. "It's
much interest in bison then as there is now.
pretty quick. (The mother is) having a calf, and the calf is
Sonny says that people, "had the idea that bison would
standing up in like 10 minutes."
be like venison - it would be gamy." It took a while for
Sonny also relates that he can medicate bison easier
him to convince people of bison meat's superior quality.
than cows. Often large livestock have to be restrained
"It's much leaner," Sonny says. "Beef is like 9.8 grams
while being medicated, but Sonny says that he does not
of fat per 100 grams of meat. Bison is 2.4. It's so much
want to hurt his animals by putting them in a squeeze
leaner. It doesn't have the marbling going through the
chute for medicating. "They get upset and hurt others
meat. Some people say that's a disadvantage
and themselves," he says. Fortunately, he solved this
because they like the fat in their meat. The
problem of giving bison their medicine long ago with a
meat is a little sweeter. It's not greasy."
little basic logic. "I pour it on their feed when I give
Although Sonny eventually expanded the
them treats," he explains.
bison market in his area and most people are
One of the most useful things Sonny has
now aware of bison meat's health benefits, the
discovered in bison is their grazing patterns.
market still has a problem - availability. While
Ponce de Leon
Many cattle ranchers rotate their animals so they
the North American Meat Institute says America
don't overgraze their pasture, but Sonny says,
processes 32.2 million cows per year, there is
"They do a fantastic job of rotating themselves.
only an estimated population of 30 to 60 million
I have two 40-acre plots, and they just constantly
bison in North America. Only a small portion of that
move from one variant to the next."
is raised by ranchers with the intention of selling meat. At
The only problem Sonny has experienced in raising
Fort Bison Ranch, Sonny and Melanie sell ground, grassbison is that they need strong corrals for roundups. This
fed meat as well as bison steaks, roasts, patties, breakfast
is probably the most dangerous part of Sonny's job as
sausages and multiple flavors of bratwursts.
the bison do not appreciate being enclosed and may act
Another complaint Sonny notices for the bison market
out against their enclosure. Sonny says it is a scary thing
is that most ranchers are uneasy about raising bison.
when a bison swings its head at him. But if he backs
"I think it is that they are afraid of the animals, or they
away, that is usually as far as the bison goes. "They're not
don't understand the animal or want to deal with the
that difficult to raise at all," he asserts. "They're difficult to
animal or whatever," Sonny says. "I think there is a fear
handle, but if you're patient and you're smart and don't do
that they are aggressive and they would be too hard to
something stupid, they are not that difficult to raise."
handle. There are people who say you have to have really
Another aspect of raising bison that Sonny enjoys
special fences, and I say, 'No you don't.' If a fence is there,

16

RURAL MISSOURI | NOVEMBER 2020



Rural Missouri - November 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - November 2020

Contents
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - Cover1
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - Cover2
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - Contents
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 4
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 5
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 6
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 7
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 8
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 9
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 10
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 11
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 12
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 13
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 14
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 15
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 16
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 17
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 18
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 19
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 20
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 21
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 22
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 23
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 24
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 25
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 26
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 27
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 28
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 29
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 30
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 31
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 32
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 33
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 34
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 35
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 36
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 37
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 38
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 39
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 40
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 41
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 42
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 43
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 44
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 45
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 46
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 47
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 48
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 49
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 50
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 51
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 52
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 53
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 54
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - Cover3
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - Cover4
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