I spent the morning processing breeding bulls - touching up lost ear tags and taking DNA samples for the lab.
Why DNA test?
As stewards of these magnificent animals, it is our duty to keep bison pure by working with the best available science. To purposely crossbreed bison with cattle is a wanton pollution of this amazing creation. We strive to identify any past human errors and responsibly limit, or even eradicate them.
Bison (often commonly referred to as buffalo) underwent a period where some of the remnant population (as little as 500 head from a herd of perhaps 60 million) were purposely crossbred with cattle with the intent to create an animal that would better fit the environment than their weaker, less-adapted bovine cousins. These well-meaning folks had little or no idea of the ramifications of such efforts. If they had, I suspect many would have not attempted it as they were the very same persons who actually saved the animal from extinction. On their own. With no government funding. With no profit in mind. They acted with a genuine desire to save what could have been lost forever, as evidenced by their continued care well after their crossbreeding efforts proved fruitless.
While the science is certainly not finished regarding bison DNA it has advanced to the point where we have made the decision to begin strategic sampling of our herd to determine if we have any relic cattle genes floating about. After lengthy discussions with scientists at the forefront of this field, we expect to find little cattle genes due to our decades long practice of selecting only animals that thrive in a natural setting with little or no supplemental feed. Cattle-crossed bison (also know as beefalo or cattalo) are inferior to pure bison in such a rigorous, natural setting and would naturally be selected against through our culling process. We’ve been very, very particular about only selecting breeding animals that thrive in this natural type setting. We so believe that, as a by-product of doing what is right for the specie by mimicking nature in our selection process, we have likely selected for animals with little or no cattle genes as well.
Time will tell, as the science is yet advancing. We are patiently waiting for the latest, most accurate and detailed test to be unveiled. In the meantime, the DNA we submit will be stored at Texas A&M for our future use and we will make it available, as requested, for other scientific work to help preserve the specie.
Man can only be judged on his heart, his mind, and his actions. We hold no ill towards the men and women of the late 1800’s for their actions. On the contrary, we heartily commend them for the tremendous gift they have given our family and all of mankind by saving this animal from extinction. The duty now lays with us to use our hearts, our minds, and our actions to further the work of preserving and strengthening this awesome creature for many generations yet to come. It is our time to act. It is our time to step up.
Long Live King Bison!