Benton, Mo., farmer's bison draw interest from passers-by

Monday, July 11, 2011
Don Scherer looks over his bison herd at the rural Benton, Mo., pasture where they roam. He has one bull and nine heifers. So far, five calves have been born this year. (Michelle Felter ~ Standard Democrat)

BENTON, Mo. -- For years, farmer Don Scherer of rural Benton has been interested in bison.

Last year, he had extra pasture space, so he purchased a small herd of the North American species of buffalo. The bull and nine cows have since added five calves, with another four expected.

"This is really more of a hobby for me," he said. "I did a lot of research and finally decided to go ahead and do it."

Scherer said his initial purchase came from another farmer he met at the Fruitland auction. He plans to keep those cows and bull for some time but sell the calves eventually.

The animals have been a hot commodity these days, with consumer demand for their healthy meat -- lean and low in fat and cholesterol -- sending the prices soaring. Retail prices vary, but the average is around $7 a pound.

According to the National Bison Association, about 92,000 head of bison were processed last year in North America. That's less than one day's beef production in the U.S.

While Scherer said he isn't interested in selling his bison to be processed yet, he hasn't totally ruled it out.

"Maybe someday," he said.

So far, Scherer said his bison herd has been enjoyable.

"They're a lot easier to take care of than cattle," he said. "They just need feed, pasture and water."

However, he found in his research that a good, strong fence is suggested to keep in the animals -- bulls can reach about 2,000 pounds while the females are typically 1,100 pounds.

Apparently, Scherer isn't the only one fascinated by the herd, as the pasture can be a busy place at times.

"A lot of people will stop and take pictures," he said. The 15-acre pasture is at County Road 566 between Benton and Blodgett, also known as Baseline Road.

Although a farmer in the area with exotic animals had bison years ago, Scherer said he isn't aware of any other bison herds in the immediate area.

While Scherer said he doesn't mind people looking, he urges them not to cross the fence or gates.

"They are very tame around me, but with the calves, they are a lot more protective," he said.

Although the animals know who he is, they still won't let him get too close, Scherer noted. And as the animals have been clocked at moving 40 miles per hour, many ranchers won't get out of their vehicle while in the pastures.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Pertinent address:

County Road 566, Benton, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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