Pat Thomson, Assistant Manager at Durham Bison Ranch, Wyoming USA
One of the largest bison herds in the USA graze on 55,000 acres of land that is Durham Bison Ranch, Wyoming.
Col Feilen of MaiaGrazing recently paid a visit to this client and was awe-struck by the majestic nature of these beasts that can weigh up to 900 kilograms, and was thoroughly impressed with the operation that is run by the team there, including Assistant Manager, Pat Thompson.
“The biggest challenge for their business right now is meeting the demand for bison meat and keeping it competitively priced for the consumer,” Col Feilen said.
Under Pat Thomson and the management team, the ranch has been in serious growth mode for the past 8 years. They have increased the number of paddocks from 65 to 87, developed four new water centres and have two more under construction, completed a major overhaul of their corrals and handling system and developed an on-ranch finishing program for the bison.
“At this point we need to analyse that everything we have done is steering us in the right direction, so our largest, current project is with MaiaGrazing, analysing our historic grazing data and putting together some refined information to help us determine where we want to be with herd size and where we need to do more grazing development,” Pat Thomson said.
He had been searching for a program for a long time to take their grazing management to the next level and was keen to find a solution that was easier to work with to get good, usable information to help make decisions.
“MaiaGrazing did everything I was looking for, plus more. We use technology a lot in our business and this program has been fantastic in helping us to analyse our grazing data in a fast and efficient way. The data is very easy to see and read. You don’t have to look at multiple spreadsheets and refer back to several grazing plans to see what you have done and what you have harvested; it is right there at the click of a button. It makes it very easy to see if you are maybe giving a paddock an easy time, or if there are paddocks that you are pushing too hard. The ease of everything I think is the big plus,” Pat said.
Pat has been a manager at Durham Bison ranch for 10 years and one of the main criteria that lead him to this current role was the practice of Holistic Management at the ranch.
“I think the movement to more regenerative agriculture globally is very exciting. More and more people are starting to realise the importance of soil health,” he said.
In order to provide a consistent, high-quality product on a year-round basis, Durham Ranch bison meat comes from animals that have been pasture-raised and grain-finished. The length of time the meat animals are finished depends on many factors including the age of the bison and environmental issues, such as droughts.
“Drought is always a constant consideration and concern for us. We have taken big steps with our pasture and water development, as well as with our record keeping and decision making, to mitigate the effects of drought and to help us act proactively instead of responding reactively,” he said.
Pat enjoys living in Wyoming and says it’s a great place to raise a family, with lots of opportunities for his three boys and a wonderful community of people.
Meanwhile, Col Feilen is still gushing about the bison herds he witnessed at any given opportunity and hopes to return to the Durham Bison Ranch soon.