A herd of bison grazes contentedly in a field along creekbottom land in western Stone County, seemingly at home in an area that is relatively new to them but historically may have been native range for the species, according to their owner, Rod Chiodini.
Rod and Cindi Chiodini bought their farm at the end of Jimmy Creek Road in 2003 and worked to reclaim and fence the land that had been abandoned for many years. They intended to run Hereford cattle but wanted just three bison after having fallen in love with the animals during three years in Wyoming. When they couldn’t find Hereford cattle that suited them, they decided to have an entire herd of bison instead.
They started the venture three years ago and in 2016 officially established Ozark Valley Bison Farm, LLC. Their herd now numbers more than 30 including two bulls and five calves. It is a young herd, with the oldest animal being four years old. Bison fully mature at six years, Rod said.
The herd’s cows weigh 700-900 pounds, with mature females weighing up to 1,400 pounds. His bulls weigh about 1,500 pounds, short of their mature weight of up to 2,500 pounds. Bison are the largest land mammal in North America. The heaviest wild bull ever recorded weighed 2,800 pounds and, in captivity, the largest bison weighed 3,801 pounds, Rod said. They can stand at six feet to the hump.
The North American Bison, also known as the American Buffalo, became the official mammal of the United States in 2016. Bison once numbered in the millions and inhabited much of the United States from the Appalachians to the Rockies.
In wintertime, the herd will sometimes run and Rod said it is easy to imagine the “thunder on the plains” that is described in books and depicted in movies.
By 1890, Chiodini said, the number of bison remaining alive in all of North America had declined from 30-60 million to as low as 541, with as few as 300 in the United States. Although the exact date is unknown, he noted, bison were probably eliminated in Stone County by the mid-1800s.
See the full story in the July 11, 2018 issue.