Tips for Buyers of Beefalo or Bison Hybrids
The best advice we can give to any buyer is, "Ask, Ask, Ask!" The only dumb question is the one not asked.
If Looking To Buy Beefalo Meat:
It's best to buy locally, if at all possible. Beyond that, understand that there are different ways to raise meat animals and each way will result in a different product, some being leaner than others. Some of the ways that meat animals are raised include: 100% grass fed out on pasture, combination grass-fed with grain supplements out on pasture, combination grass-fed (hay) and grain in confinement, or mostly grain fed in confinement. If it is important to you how the animals are raised, then you will want to ask, "How do you raise your beefalo?" Sometimes people will tell you what they think you want to hear, so don't lead them by suggestion; let them explain their methods. You should also ask what percentage bison the animals have. Beefalo that have higher percentages bison content, tend to be leaner than an animal that is only half beefalo, for example.
Expect to pay more for Beefalo or Bison Hybrid meat than you would for beef. The nutritional value of this meat is exceptional and commands a higher price, similar to bison meat. Also, the availability of Beefalo and Bison Hybrids is more closely aligned with bison and is harder to find, which may tend to drive the price up a little. If at all possible, make an appointment to go directly to the producer's farm to view the animals and see how they are being raised, and talk directly to the farmer/rancher.
If Looking To Buy Breeding Stock:
1. Gather Information Whether you are completely new to raising livestock or not, gather as much information as you possibly can and don't rely on just one source or person to "show you the ropes". If you ask five different people how to raise an animal, you will probably get five different ideas. Do research! Start with your local geographic area and find out who is doing what. Just because someone has always done something a certain way, doesn't mean it is the only way or it is the best way to do it. Analyze and think through everything you learn. Don't buy into hype. There will always be someone who will "talk up" something so that it sounds fantastic! If it sounds too good to be true, it is!
2. Research your market Who do you plan to sell your Beefalo or Bison Hybrids to? Do the people in your geographic area even know what a Beefalo is? Educating the public as to what Beefalo is can be the hardest part of selling Beefalo. You would be amazed at how many people think that Beefalo meat is "some beef smooshed together with some bison meat". That argument works for burger, but how do you make a steak - sew the two types of meat together? If you find that there is a good market in your area for bison meat, then you probably have a pretty good chance of selling your beefalo meat. If you have people who are more health conscious and are interested in organic foods, then you probably have a pretty good chance of selling your beefalo meat, especially if it is raised on pasture. How will you sell your beefalo meat - Will you direct market them by quarters or halves or in individually wrapped packages such as steaks and burger? Will you sell them to a restaurant or grocery store or specialty market? Go to farmers markets? Will you sell them to a wholesaler who will then bear the burden of getting the product to the end user? Find other producers in your area who are currently doing what you want to do, even if they are doing it with regular beef cattle. You will want to know what the market for beef and bison is in your area so that you can price your beefalo meat somewhere in between.
3. Calculate your Profit Calculate the cost of raising your beefalo or bison hybrid, including what you will pay for the animal initially, the cost of feed, your overhead expenses including land rent or mortgage and interest payments, utilities, farm supplies, property taxes, fuel, insurances, repairs and maintenance, equipment costs, and a fair hourly rate for your time. Understanding your costs will be crucial to calculating what you need to charge for your beefalo meat animals. If it turns out that your projected costs will exceed what you can sell your beefalo for, you will either have to look at raising the price (and ask if the market will bear that increased price), or you will have to look at raising your animals a different, less expensive way to reduce costs. If you can't raise your selling price and you can't reduce your expenses, then you may need to reconsider your plan altogether.
4. Understand the nature of Beefalo or Bison Hybrids Some people think that beefalo tend to be wilder than beef cattle because of the "bison" in them. This is not necessarily the case. Some higher percentage Hybrids may display more bison characteristics for aggressiveness, but some are as gentle as the gentlest cattle breeds. Any good producer, will not sell you an animal that is aggressive or mean spirited. These animals need to be culled out as meat before they can pass on those undesirable traits. If you are thinking about raising Beefalo or Bison Hybrids because they are a "novelty", think again. You still need to market them for their meat. While some beefalo and bison hybrids look more like buffalo, a great many don't. And the average person looking at the animal won't be able to tell the difference between a beefalo and domestic cattle. It is truly their meat qualities that make the difference. And that aspect needs to be "sold through education".
5. Various Ways to Obtain a Beefalo To arrive at a Fullblood Beefalo (37.5%), it takes three generations of crossing between an American Bison and beef cattle, and if by chance you are unlucky enough to get a bull calf from the first cross, it may just be sterile and then you would have to try, try again. A slightly easier way is probably to breed up using a beefalo/bison hybrid animal or beefalo/bison hybrid semen on a domestic cow. Still, this will take at least two or more generations depending on the bison content of the beefalo animal or semen used. It is time consuming to do the crossings, and it is this effort that many individuals have put forth that makes these animals even more valuable. The easiest way to obtain a beefalo is to purchase one.
6. What Should I Look For and What Should I Pay? When looking for Beefalo or Bison Hybrid Breeding Stock, you will want to look at several different factors, including the percentage of bison content, confirmation, disposition, and what type of feed the animals have been bred to be raised on. There can be quite a difference in the confirmation of animals bred to be grazed on pasture and the confirmation of animals bred to be fed in a confinement environment on grain. It is best to decide how you will raise your beefalo or bison hybrid and then find animals that do well in that environment.
Since Beefalo and Bison Hybrids are currently rather rare, you should expect to pay more for good quality breeding stock. Make sure you ask about the animal's lineage and bison % content and if registered or registerable, get written confirmation before the sale is final.