The Advantages of Raising Beefalo

Beefalo are an easy-to-raise hybrid that can put meat on your table and money in your pocket.

| May/June 1979

Three years ago, my husband David and I added the bloodlines of the American bison to our homestead cattle. The result was beefalo. Our relationship with this relatively new breed of livestock—which is 3/8 bison and 5/8 domestic cow—has convinced us that it's ideally suited to the small family farm. Beefalo are hardy, fertile, and docile, and these bovine-bison hybrids will efficiently convert whatever food is readily available to meat-on-the-hoof.

Weatherproof Cattle

The blizzards of '76 and '77—the worst ever recorded in Kentucky —turned out to be an ideal test of our crossbreeds' ability to withstand severe weather. While farmers all around us lost cattle daily to the cold, our beefalo not only survived but actually thrived! No doubt their "buffalo robes"—thick coats of hair inherited (along with rugged constitutions) from their free-roaming ancestors—helped our cattle weather subzero wind-chill factors.

During the prolonged, extreme cold the beasts fed heavily on hay (homegrown clover, alfalfa, and fescue mixed), but they didn't eat much expensive grain and their body weights still remained stable. The crossbreeds also drank frigid water from a hole cut in the 18-inch layer of ice on our farm pond, and even that frozen slush produced no ill effects (except on those of us who had to chop through to the water).

Furthermore, when the chilly winds of winter gave way to the sultry days of summer, our beefalo were unaffected by the 80 to 95°F "dog days" temperatures. Like their native American forebears, these hybrid cattle perspire through the skin, and thus maintain a constant body temperature regardless of the weather.

Easy to Breed

Because beefalo are the offspring of two animals of different species, their ability to reproduce has been questioned. But one of the reasons that breeders have settled upon the ratio of 3/8 bison to 5/8 cow is that such animals demonstrate a high degree of fertility. As long as the proportion of bison is kept at or below the 3/8 level, there are few if any reproductive problems.

In fact, we've found that our heifers actually begin their cycles earlier than do regular domestic cattle. However, to insure maximum physical development prior to the arrival of the calf (nine months and ten days after conception), it's preferable to wait until a female is at least 13 months old before breeding her.

mother earth news fair 2018 schedule


Next: April 28-29, 2018
Asheville, NC

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!