Getting Started into Beefalo
Below is some information that will help you better identify what you are looking to buy or if you are selling, it will help you define what you have to sell. If you are a seller, it is important that you accurately represent the animals you are selling. We cannot stress enough the importance of being honest. Misrepresentations will only harm you and your business in the long-run.
What is a Beefalo, what is a Bison Hybrid? A Beefalo is a cross between a Bison (American Buffalo) and any breed of domestic cattle. There are several classifications of beefalo and all are listed by their Bison content or percentage. So for example, if someone says that they have a Purebred beefalo, they are saying that the animal has between 34.0 - 37.4% bison in it.
The following is a short list of percentages considered to be Beefalo:
37.5% (3/8) - Fullblood Beefalo
34.0 - 37.4% - Purebred Beefalo
17.0 - 33.99% - Percentage Beefalo
17.0% - 18.75% - Half Beefalo (also sometimes called Percentage Beefalo)
less than 17.0% - domestic cattle (cannot be called Beefalo)
A Bison Hybrid is also a cross between a Bison (American Buffalo) and any breed of domestic cattle. In order for an animal to be classified as a Bison Hybrid, it must have more than 37.5% (3/8ths) bison content.
Types of Beefalo and Bison Hybrids When looking to buy or sell Beefalo or Bison Hybrids, it is best to define the purpose of the animal. Generally, breeding stock animals should and do command a higher price than meat animals and rightfully so, as they should be a higher quality animal than an animal that is going to be butchered for its meat.
Sellers should look over their herd carefully and choose only the very best animals to sell as breeding stock. Consideration should be given not only to appearance, but also to how well they have grown, confirmation and muscling, and disposition.
In the case of mature bulls, the seller should look to the calves they have sired and what their traits are. A bull that produces slow-growing, poor-confirmation calves should probably be culled out as meat and not sold as breeding stock. A bull that produces, fast-growing, good-confirmation calves with calm dispositions would be a good one to either keep or sell as breeding stock.
For mature cows, consideration should be given to calving ease, how well their calves have grown, and how well the cow maintains condition while raising the calf. Cows that produce and raise a good, strong calf each and every year are extremely valuable.
For young, unproven bulls or heifers, growth rates, confirmation and disposition are important, but should be weighed along with their lineage when trying to project forward as to what these animals will ultimately become. Ask yourself, "What is the history of the bull or heifer's parents and grandparents?"
Buyers should be looking at the same qualities and asking questions along these lines of the sellers.
Beefalo Registries Dating back as far as the 1970’s, there have been various organizations created that have maintained Registry records on the Beefalo Breed. These Registries were set up and maintained in order to trace and verify the lineage and “authenticity” of the Beefalo breed. Currently, there may be more than one organization dedicated to this effort and we recommend that you check with the seller as to what Registry they are using and see if cross-registrations are accepted.
Beefalo Breeding Stock The best way to be sure that you are getting an animal with a specific bison content percentage, is to purchase only registered breeding stock animals. If this is the case, we recommend that you request from the seller prior to agreement to purchase any animals, proof that the animals you are looking to buy do indeed have proof of registration and then contact the Registry to confirm those records.
If purchasing animals that have not been registered, but are listed as being “registerable”, make sure that you obtain registration records for both the sire and the dam, and confirm that information with the related Registry. Also discuss with the Registry what steps will need to be taken in order to get your Beefalo animals registered. In many cases, DNA testing is a requirement and information pertaining to the sire and dam will be needed.
In some cases, maybe registered breeding stock is not important to you. For example, if you are looking for breeding stock animals who will produce meat animals to sell and replacement animals for yourself, you may not see the need to have them registered. There are many excellent quality animals available that are not registered or that cannot be registered because their parents were never registered. But make sure that you get the facts on the animal as to what the lineage and bison percentage is and keep those records.
Bison Hybrids Breeding Stock Bison Hybrids, animals that are at least 37.6% bison can generally be accepted into Beefalo registry records as ancestry animals, if the dam, the sire, and the bison hybrid have all been DNA tested. We recommend that you request from the seller prior to agreement to purchase any animals, proof that the animals you are looking to buy have proof of registration and then contact the Registry to confirm those records. If purchasing animals that have not been registered, but are listed as being “registerable”, make sure that you obtain registration records for both the sire and the dam, and confirm that information with the related Registry. Also discuss with the Registry what steps will need to be taken in order to get your Bison Hybrid animals registered. In many cases, DNA testing is a requirement and information pertaining to the sire and dam will be needed.
Beefalo Meat Animals Beefalo meat animals may or may not be registered. Some producers have taken the time and expense to have their animals registered as “Beefalo Meat animals” in order to take advantage of the USDA Beefalo roll stamp when having them processed. It is important to understand that under current National Registry guidelines, a “beefalo meat animal” can have as little as 17% bison content in it. In other words, the animal may only be A Half Beefalo. If you mate a Fullblood or Purebred Beefalo to any breed of 100% domestic cattle, the offspring will be a Half Beefalo. Once again, it is important to get information on the sire and dam and understand exactly what you are getting.
Bison Hybrid Meat Animals Currently, there are no registries specifically for Bison Hybrid Meat animals. Some of these animals may, however, be registered through the national registry as Ancestor Animals. If you are looking to purchase bison hybrid meat animals to sell as meat, you need to talk with the seller and make sure you understand what percentage bison the animal is. Appearances may be deceiving. Sometimes higher percentage bison animals will display more bison characteristics, but there have been occasions when that is not the case.
Unregistered Beefalo or Bison Hybrids If the animals you wish to purchase are not registered or registerable, you will have to take the word of the seller as to the lineage and percentage of bison content of those animals.
Check around and do your homework before purchasing. It is best to deal with reputable producers who have been in business for a fair amount of time and keep records. (See our section above on “What is a Beefalo, What is a Bison Hybrid” for more information.)