The Cost of a Bison

Last Updated on November 28, 2021
Written by CPA Alec Pow | Content Reviewed by Certified CFA CFA Alexander Popinker

The American bison is a representative species for the vast prairies that once stretched between the Rocky Mountains at the east, along with central North America to southern Canada and southern Texas. Also known as the American buffalo, this massive animal has a large head, a thick neck, and a prominent hump behind the shoulders.

Although today’s bison no longer reaches the huge proportions of its ancestors, it still remains a formidable heavyweight fighter, which it is always good to avoid.

How Much Does a Bison Cost?

The price of a bison is influenced by many factors including its class and weight, the market conditions, and the geographical area. Based on these factors, in the table below you find the average prices of some of the most common types of bison.

Class Total Average Price Paid Average Price Per Pound (Live)
Heifer Calf (light cut) $2,220 $5.50
Heifer Calf (heavy cut) $2,250 $5
Bull Calf (heavy cut) $2,250 $5.30
Bull Calf (light cut) $2,000 $5
Yearling Bull $2,150 $3.95
Yearling Heifer $2,500 $3.75
Mature Cow (open) $2,500 $2.50
Mature Cow (bred) $3,500 $2.75
2 Year Bull (breeding) $3,200 $2.90
2 Year Bull $3,700 $3.50

The price of a two-year-old bison male is around $2,200, while a yearling male costs almost $1,850, according to National Bison Range, located in Montana.

According to Rapid City Journal, the average cost of a bull calf is $2,100, while a yearling heifer is sold for almost $2,300. The same newspaper states that one bull, in particular, was sold for $12,000.

What are the extra costs?

Compared to cows, bison don’t require so much care as they lived for so long into the wild, without the man’s intervention. They will need only clean water, grass to graze, herd companions, a secure fence, a preventative health program, and a handling facility. According to the ranchers, the fencing set up must be at least six feet high and every one cow-calf pair will need around 10 acres of grass.

Regarding the vet costs, bison will have to be dewormed and vaccinated once per year.

You might also like our articles about the cost of an alpaca, a llama, or a Black Angus cow.

According to BisonCenter.com, the daily costs for a mature bison are around $2.5 to $3, while for a younger bison you should budget $1 to $1.75 per day. These costs will include food, vet care, and other necessary activities. However, you should budget at least $2.5 per day for each bison.

If you decide to buy a bison, you should know that they need companionship, which means that you have to purchase 5 to 15 animals at once. This results in a cost of $12,000 to more than $25,000.

The ranchers are always on the lookout for new ways to keep the bison stay one step ahead of diseases. They rely heavily upon routine vaccinations and deworming programs, which help keep these large animals healthy.

Bison details

Bison, the largest mammal in North America, has two colors of fur, depending on the time of year. In winter, bison have a long, thick, dark brown woolly coat. As the spring sun rises, the huge herbivore sheds, its new summer coat being light brown in a warm tone. Typical for bovines, males, or bison bulls, as they are also called, are more massive and imposing than females.

In the wild, this species hardly appears at all; most American bison live in captivity. The only places where wild herds survive are Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada and Yellowstone National Park in the USA.

The lifespan of a bison is around 30 years and its weight at maturity is anywhere between 1,000 and 1,500 pounds.

Although they have a huge body, these animals run very fast at up to 38 miles/h. They have a very well-developed sense of smell and hearing, ideal for detecting danger.

Important things to consider

Buffalo HerdFederal regulations prohibit the use of growth hormones and antibiotics in bison’s meat.

Bison meat is a lean and healthy alternative to beef. A three-ounce serving of bison has 93 calories, 1.8 grams of fat with 43 milligrams of cholesterol. It’s also rich in iron, which can help improve blood flow inside the body.

When talking about the taste, the bison’s meat is more tender and slightly sweeter when compared to beef.

Penn State University states that, when compared to cattle, bison are much larger and stronger. They also have an excitable nature which requires a higher fence for their containment facility.

Make sure you are not breaking any rules by always checking your state’s laws regarding the bison. If you are raising bison for agricultural purposes, then it will fall into the same category as cattle. On the other hand, it will fall under the same rules as exotic animals when slaughtered.

Bison are ingenious foragers. If they can’t find any grass, bison will dig through the snow to access some. However, when there’s no food at all, like during cold winter months,  ranchers often give them standing hay in order to keep their nutritional levels up.

The bison versus the buffalo

The North American Bison is also known as the buffalo or bison. But there are two subspecies of bison we can find in North America: the Wood Bison, which can be found mainly across Canada, and the Plains Bison, which mostly resides on U.S. and Canadian land. Though, the bison and the buffalo are two different species of mammals. The bison is not a true buffalo in scientific terms.

The Asian Water buffalo and the African Cape buffalo are the only ones considered “true” buffalo. Also, these species live in Asia and Africa, while the American bison can only be found in North America.

In order to make sure that the customers receive bison meat and not water buffalo parts, ranchers refer to the meat they sell as “bison”.

How can I save money?

If you want to buy more than one bison at once, usually some farms or auctions sell bull calves in groups, which can lower the price per animal.

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