About 300 years ago an estimated 40 to 70 million buffalo roamed North America’s plains. Today, there are about 500,000 American buffalo in the U.S. and another 250,000 in Canada.
In 1690, a herd of Spanish cattle were driven northward from Mexico to a mission located on land now known as Texas. Longhorns would become the foundation of the American cattle industry.
A little bit of the “Old West” right here in Faribault County?
On a whim, the two breeds were united and can be seen grazing on the rural Bricelyn farms of Selmer Nordaas and Tim Gudal.
“Every year we both say this is it, never again,” Nordaas says about raising buffalo.
It was about 10 years ago that Gudal bought two buffalo and then convinced his friend to give raising his own a try.
“One week I just bought the buffaloes at a sale barn. We kind of got hooked on it from there,” says Gudal.
It wasn’t as if the two farmers weren’t busy.
Gudal has several hundred cows and cattle, plus the corn, soybeans and alfalfa that he grows.
Nordaas’ herd of cattle totals more than 100, and he also grows corn, soybeans and sweet corn.
The two farmers, however, needed a pastime — something different to do. No surprise that it would revolve around an activity that’s ag-related.
“It’s just a hobby. We don’t do it to make a profit,” Gudal says of the buffalo. Of the 16 bison at Nordaas’ farm, five belong to Gudal. The two try to take turns at whose farm they will be at for the year.
What about the Longhorns?
Listening to Nordaas tell the story, that too was Gudal’s doing. His sons also played a part.
While hauling some hay to Texas, is when they came up with a brainstorm.
“They made a joke, ‘Let’s take him back some Longhorns.’ And, they did,” explains Nordaas.
How long will they continue to raise livestock which played a large role in America’s history and heritage?
Neither one is exactly sure.
Caring for buffalo is pretty much like any other livestock, so it doesn’t require too much extra time, they say.
The only real visible sign that special measures must be taken with bison is with how they are penned up. Because of their massive size, steel guard rails generally are installed.
“They’re great jumpers,” Gudal says using an arm to show how high the can jump to explain that bison escape time to time.
“One thing about buffalo, they will usually find their way back to the place they are fed and familiar with,” adds Nordaas.
Perhaps the deciding factor will come down to a matter of taste.
Gudal and Nordaas both prefer buffalo meat over beef. As do their friends who have become customers.
“You give someone who has eaten buffalo a choice … 95 percent will buy it again,” Gudal says.
Adds Nordaas, “My wife doesn’t want any other meat in our freezer.”
In addition to better-tasting, buffalo meat is considered to be healthier. However, it is not sold at local grocery stores or restaurants.
So, if Gudal and Nordaas wish to enjoy their meat of preference they may have to continue raising bison and having them processed at Blue Earth Locker.
Hopefully they do. That way a part of America’s legacy will continue to exist right here, in our county.