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Hometown Farmer - Broken Kettle Bison

Hometown Farmer - Broken Kettle Bison

There's a different kind of ranch just up the road from Sioux City, where the livestock aren't being raised for slaughter, but to help the land they live on.

Sometimes when you're on a peaceful prairie or a remote road, you've got to cause a commotion to bump into some bison.

"It's amazing how easy it is to lose a bunch of bison on a place this big," said Emily Hohman, Western Iowa Land Steward for the Nature Conservancy.

She's sort of a guide to the bison, which are roaming 1,800 acres at the Broken Kettle Grasslands north of Sioux City.

It took about ten minutes of riding to find a small group of about ten animals, which were still off in the distance.

"This little group is being pretty calm here today," said Hohman. "We're back enough of a distance that they're not too afraid of us."

Roughly 160 bison live on the grassland altogether.

"They're livestock, these are considered legally livestock, even though they really are a wild animal for us," said Hohman. "We try to maintain them as wild as possible, in a fenced area."

And those buffalo help maintain the prairie, by eating it.

"We can do cattle, but bison are a little lower intensity for us, there's not as much maintenance that goes into this herd," said Hohman. "They're out here year-round, grazing pressure that we can't get with cattle."

The bison also help by laying around, literally.

"This is a wallow," said Hohman, pointing to a bare spot of dirt that was starting to be worn into the ground. "This is where the buffalo roll to fluff their fur up, to get dust in their fur, to get insects out."

Just over a hill, driving a little too close for comfort for a few of'em, was the main herd.

You'll find they're surprisingly quiet for a such a big group of big animals.

"They're very composed," said Hohman. "Very calm most of the time."

And, this time of year you might also spot a sign of the season at the Broken Kettle Grasslands, a pasque flower or two.

"One of the very few things that's in bloom this time of year," said Hohman, pointing to a small group of flowers. "That's kind of a sign of spring out here on the prairies."

The bison will be in bloom soon, too.

Calving season starts in about a month and roughly sixty calves are expected this spring.

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For more information on the Broken Kettle Grasslands, please visit:

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