Carie Starr realizes her dream at Cherokee Valley Bison Ranch

Carie Starr realizes her dream at Cherokee Valley Bison Ranch

Farm and Dairy, by Sarah Donaldson -September 1, 2022

Buffalo Tales and Trails - Carie Starr realizes her dream at Cherokee Valley Bison Ranch

Carie Starr stands near a pasture with her bison at Cherokee Valley Bison Ranch, in Thornville, Ohio. Photos credit Sarah Donaldson.

In 2005, Carie Starr had a life-changing meal. At that time, she was living on 25 acres of her family’s land, in Thornville, Ohio.

Her grandparents originally owned that land as part of their 160-acre farm. They enjoyed harness racing and had most of the farm in hay production. They also kept a few other animals, like goats and cattle, over the years. Starr grew up around the farm and her grandparents, but never had any plans to be a farmer.

But near the end of 2005, she had dinner at Ted’s Montana Grill, a restaurant in Columbus, to celebrate getting a new job. She wanted to try something new and adventurous, so she ordered bison prime rib.

“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten. I’d like to be able to eat that all the time’ … Well, I live in the middle of 25 acres. I could raise bison,” she said.

By 2008, bison grazed the pastures around her. Now, in 2022, she has almost 50 of them at Cherokee Valley Bison Ranch.

She really never thought it would happen. Bison are expensive. She was a single mom at the time, and had recently gotten out of an unhappy relationship. But the idea stuck with her. It was something she read about and thought about to take her mind off of things when she wasn’t happy.

“It was just kind of a fun little fantasy,” she said.

Starr’s bison in pasture at Cherokee Valley Bison Ranch.

Starr uses rotational grazing for her herd. She puts some hay bales out for the cattle, and is starting to experiment with “hay bombing” in the pastures. That involves unrolling hay bales on sections of the pasture where animals have eaten most of the grass.

The bison eat the hay, and whatever they don’t eat gets trampled into the ground. Because the bison are eating there, they also fertilize the ground there, and eventually, the seeds from the hay bale grow into more grass to replace the grass the animals overgrazed.

But another part of managing the farm is knowing which land is better kept out of pasture. Brushy fence rows around the farm provide habitat for pollinators, birds and other wildlife. Starr also keeps an area near the back of the property, where several small streams run, in more butterfly and pollinator habitat.

“If you cram every square inch of your property into production agriculture, there’s no room for those things,” Starr said.

Starr’s grandmother influenced the way she farms, Starr said. She always shared her love for nature and her Cherokee heritage with her family, and was careful to take good care of the land.

“You grow up like that, and you learn to appreciate those kind of things.”

Starr sells most of her bison by the cut from her on-farm store. She also supplies a few small grocery stores and markets, including the Native American Indian Center of Central Ohio’s food truck in Columbus, with wholesale bison and occasionally sells halves or quarters to customers.

“Bison is not cheap. I know that,” she said. “So, we had to go to where the market was.”

Areas like Columbus tend to have more potential customers who want to and can afford to buy bison meat. She started going to farmers markets to build up her customer base in 2008. By 2010, she didn’t have enough bison to meet the demand at the market, so she switched to selling from the farm.

In 2017, she expanded the herd, so she went back to farmers markets for a little while to help build up her customer base again. She’s also gained a lot of customers through posting about her bison on social media.

Starr also welcomes people to the farm with tours, and with camping sites on the property. She and her husband added a tipi to the farm in 2021 for camping, and immediately had bookings. They added a second this year.

They put the tipis on the part of the property that has several streams running through it. It’s an area where she always enjoyed hanging out, and she thought it might be a good place for camping.

“We have that area and like I mentioned, it’s not really good for pasturing,” she said. But it does have an abundance of native plants, pollinators and birds for campers to see. “I think it’s important that people come out and they see that kind of thing. It makes people appreciate nature more.”

Reporter Sarah Donaldson is a former 4-Her and Mount Union graduate from Columbiana County, Ohio, 800-837-3419 or

Francie M Berg

Author of the Buffalo Tales &Trails blog

Mycoplasma bovis Task Force Meets

The Center of Excellence (COE) for Bison Studies led M. bovis Task Force met today to continue their work on gaining a better understanding of the virus and offering mitigation options.

Members of the task force include not just members of the COE, but also researchers and staff of the National Park Service, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the University of Wyoming, Colorado State University and South Dakota State University, the Nature Conservancy, Turner Enterprises, Inc., and the USDA’s Agriculture Research Service.

Dr. Bryan Kaplan, a newly hired M. bovis researcher with USDA Agriculture Research Service, updated the group and shared some encouraging news in that ARS is in the process of testing two vaccines by the end of this summer to be tested on ten bison to determine safety and efficacy.

Further, the COE recently announced that this year’s funded research projects include a project at the University of Wyoming that will assess the factors that influence the virulence of Mycoplasma bovis in bison.

See the NBA’s Mycoplasma bovis fact sheet- May 2022. Disclaimer: The National Bison Association assumes no responsibility for the content of the fact sheet, provided for informational purposes only. This content is based solely on anecdotal information from volunteers in the bison industry who have experienced losses due to Mycoplasma bovis as the science of M. bovis in bison advances.

CASE COUNT: 21 herds with confirmed cases in 10 states, according to the Mycoplasma Task Force with the Center of Excellence for Bison Studies at South Dakota State University.

• Drought, poor pasture and water conditions.
• Crowded, dusty, high-stress environments.
 • Excessive wildfire smoke.
• Any type of stress — environmental, nutritional, behavioral, etc.
• Parasite loads or other causes for a depressed immune system

Funding for these important research projects are the result of contributions to the National Buffalo Foundation, which has funded all research projects to date at the COE. Donations can be made to continue this research at
(Italic) NBA Weekly Update for July 15, 2022

Francie M Berg

Author of the Buffalo Tales &Trails blog

More wood bison headed for Innoko River region

More wood bison headed for Innoko River region

Alaska Public Media
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks, July 21, 2022

Young Wood Bison that are being transported to join a herd seeded along the Innoko River in 2015. Photo Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

A group of young wood bison are being transported to the Lower Innoko River region in Western Alaska. It’s the latest step in a decades-long effort by state and federal agencies and Alaska Native groups to re-establish the animals in Alaska.

The 28 yearling wood bison are part of a group form Alberta’s Elk Island National Park that were trucked to Fairbanks in April. Alaska Department of Fish and Game wood bison biologist Tom Seaton said the animals spent the last three months at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Large Animal Research Station.

“When we first got them, they were just kind of bony calves that had just been weaned, and we wanted to get their body condition up. So we got them on some really good hay from Delta Junction and supplementing them with alfalfa pellets to try to improve their protein so they can gain some muscle mass,” he said. “This summer was a great growing summer, and you can really see it in the bison. Some gained as much as 200 pounds since April, and it’s pretty amazing.”

The even mix of female and male wood bison are destined to join a herd seeded by animals transplanted from Canada to the Innoko River region in Western Alaska in 2015. Seaton said the young bison were separated into four groups of seven in preparation for this week’s trip.

“They’ve had some time to develop their social relationships in those groups of 7, which is important because you don’t want certain individuals in a container working out their dominance hierarchy when they’re being transported,” Seaton said.

The bison are traveling in four customized steel shipping containers, which longtime project partner Carlile Transportation trucked from Fairbanks to Nenana Wednesday.

Carlile Transportation senior account executive Eleanor Harrington said the company provides the service for a nominal fee because it supports the wood bison project.

“This is just one of the coolest projects,” she said. “My background is in animals, so I’m personally very invested in this.”

From Nenana, it’s a three-to-four-day barge voyage along the Tanana, Yukon and Innoko Rivers to a pre-staged release site on the Innoko. Seaton said two biologists are accompanying the wood bison on the river trip, during which overheating is the biggest concern.

“They take shifts and monitor them 24 hours a day, and there’s air conditioning units on there, and temperature and humidity sensors,” he said.

Seaton said the journey is stressful for the wood bison, which will be released into a large, fenced area to adjust to their new environment. He said the enclosure was constructed by Holy Cross and Shageluk residents at a site along the Innoko River in an area where the existing herd of around 130 animals gathers for the rut this time of year.

“We need to connect them with the wild bison so they can join that social group and learn about where to eat and where to go, and what to do and all that from the wild bison,” he said. “So if we can get the bison settled, and then the wild bison show up, then we’ll turn them out.”

Seaton emphasizes that bison are very good at finding other bison.

“Young bison want to be with adult cows and adult cows want to keep young bison with them, and so even for young bison that they don’t know, there’s an attraction there, a magnetism there that will work in our favor,” he said.

Seaton said a grant from the Bureau of Land Management is covering the $300,000 cost of this latest phase of the reintroduction project.

He said another 11 bison from the same group of yearlings brought from Canada in April are remaining behind in Fairbanks because they are still a little too small to be released into the wild. He said that group will likely join the others along the Innoko River next summer.
NBA Weekly Update for July 22, 2022

Francie M Berg

Author of the Buffalo Tales &Trails blog

2022 International Bison Convention a Great Success 

NBA Executive Director Jim Matheson, along with many NBA members, attended the 2022 International Bison Convention (IBC) in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan this week.

 The conference was an enormous success, with hundreds of bison enthusiasts gathering in Canada to celebrate, learn, and network.

The International Bison Conference occurs every five years, with the NBA and the Canadian Bison Associaiton switching hosting duties each time. The last IBC was in Big Sky, MT in 2017.

 This year’s IBC had a diverse agenda that touched on all aspects of the species, from production to research to conservation to culture, the conference had it all.

Attendees were treated to wonderful gourmet meals at each sitting, all of which featured local Canadian bison. The CBA pulled out all the stops with entertainment the first two evenings, concluding with a banquet dinner on Thursday night that included a fun auction that raised significant funds for the association, graciously served by auctioneer, Brennin Jack.

 Matheson provided opening remarks and participated as a judge in the convention’s poster session, which featured innovative research by North American graduate and PhD students.

 Said Matheson, “This year’s IBC was very well organized, planned and facilitated and was enjoyed by all in attendance.

 “The get together was as much a reunion as it was a conference, and the CBA certainly raised the bar with IBCs to come. Kudos to all involved in making this IBC a tremendous success.”
NBA Weekly Update for July 15, 2022

Francie M Berg

Author of the Buffalo Tales &Trails blog

Attorney General Knudsen asks federal panel to overturn BLM’s bison grazing decision

HELENA – August 26, 2022

Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen today asked a federal board to overturn the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) decision to grant a permit change allowing bison grazing in Phillips County. The permit is a part of the American Prairie Reserve’s broader effort to expand bison grazing on the plains across northern and eastern Montana.

Attorney General Knudsen’s appeal asks the U.S. Department of the Interior Office of Hearings and Appeals to overturn the decision and issue a stay until the appeal is resolved to prevent irreparable harm to the grazing allotments and surrounding communities.

“The BLM’s decision ignores the real concerns of rural communities and ranchers who rely on the land in favor of elitist attitudes of those seeking to transform Northeast Montana into a wildlife viewing shed for tourists. Agriculture is not an easy way of life, but Montana ranch families—including my own—are proud of their history and heritage that is still a part of our state today,” Attorney General Knudsen said. “As American Prairie Reserve occupies more and more land here, it pushes out ranching communities, threatens our livestock industry and will ultimately add to the instability of the world’s food supply.”

BLM’s decision violates the Taylor Grazing Act, Federal Land Policy and Management Act, Public Rangelands Improvement Act, which all aim to improve public range lands and uplift ranching communities. Conservation bison grazing would directly undermine these legislative goals. Additionally, BLM’s process in issuing its decision ignored numerous concerns and legal deficiencies raised by commenters and violated the Administrative Procedure Act and National Environmental Policy Act.

Grazing indigenous animals like bison can be accomplished through special use grazing permits, but BLM gave APR preferential treatment through bypassing that permit process, upending its statutory scheme and prioritizing outside groups over Montana ranchers.

“Few (no) cattle ranchers raise cows for the sheer glory of the bovine form, for their symbolic connection to American history, or for their contributions to the natural environment. But that’s precisely what APR intends to do here—manage a bison herd for purely conservation, ecological and nostalgic ends. Bison aren’t livestock under federal law,” the appeal states. “Such a shift in the use of the land harms not only ranchers—who can no longer use this federal land to graze their livestock—but entire rural communities who depend on livestock operations to earn their own living.”

The BLM failed to adequately consider these economic impacts on local communities as required by law as well as the interference a large bison herd would cause surrounding cattle operations. Additionally, BLM held a single virtual meeting “in the middle of the day, in the middle of the work week, in the middle of haying season—a time and format that precluded the participation of those individuals most impacted by the proposal and most likely to offer salient feedback.”

Last September, Attorney General Knudsen held a public listening session in Malta, Montana. More than 250 Montanans came to the meeting, including many local agriculturalists who said the BLM effectively ignored and shut them out from its public comment process.

Following that, he filed formal comments with the BLM that spelled out the legal issues with the agency’s inadequate review process and with the APR’s proposal itself, which are echoed in today’s appeal.


Francie M Berg

Author of the Buffalo Tales &Trails blog

Five Tips to Keeping Livestock Vaccines Viable on Farm

Vaccines are crucial to keeping livestock healthy and productive, says South Dakota State University (SDSU) Extension Veterinarian and State Public Health Veterinarian Russ Daly.

While vaccines don’t provide absolute protection, the “added insurance” helps stimulate the animal’s immune system and increases its ability to fight off an infection or lessen the impact of disease if it should occur.

“Herd history, vaccine type, method of administration and age of animal all come into play, so it is critical for producers to work with their local veterinarian in developing a vaccination program,” says Daly. “They have experience with and knowledge of the many different vaccines, as well as the disease issues in area herds.”

Most vaccines are either modified-live virus (MLV) or inactivated “killed.” MLV vaccines contain whole germs that have been altered such that, while they are able to multiply within the body, their ability to cause disease has been taken away. Inactivated vaccines contain bacteria or viruses that have been inactivated by heat or chemicals.

Whether the producer/veterinarian team chooses an inactivated or MLV vaccination program, Daly says it’s important that the vaccines don’t go past their prime.

“Proteins are the major components of the organisms that make up both killed and MLV vaccines, and they disintegrate according to two major factors: time and temperature.

In addition, common disinfectants and ultraviolent light can reduce the viability of modified-live organisms.

Daly recommends the following tips for handling, storing and using vaccines:

  1. Purchasing vaccines and equipment: Observe expiration dates prior to purchase. Purchase the appropriate type and sufficient number of needles for the job. Plan on replacing needles when they become bent, dull or dirty, and before drawing up vaccine into the syringe.
  2. Transporting and storing vaccines: Keep boxes and bottles cool and out of sunlight while in transport. Use frozen ice packs in an insulated box in the summer and prevent vaccines from freezing in the winter. Prior to use, store vaccines in a properly working refrigerator.
  3. Equipment and work area: Use clean syringes, but not those that have had internal parts cleaned with soap or chemical disinfectants, including alcohol. Set up an area for syringes such that they are shaded and kept cool and dust-free while working.
  4. While working: Keep vaccine bottles in a closed cooler with ice packs (summer) or hot packs (winter) until they are needed. When using MLV vaccines, rehydrate the vials either one at a time as they are needed or as many as you will use within an hour. Always use a brand-new needle to draw vaccine into the syringe. Protect syringes from heat, light and freezing while working. When using needle-free injection systems, or syringes that draw doses from a tube attached to the vaccine bottle, care should be taken to assure the bottle and tubing stay cool and shaded from sunlight.
  5. After job is complete: Discard any unused MLV vaccine that has been reconstituted. Discard any partial bottles of inactivated vaccine that have been contaminated by dirty needles. Return unmixed MLV and unused inactivated vaccines to a properly working refrigerator as soon as possible. Clean syringes, transfer needles and tubing. Follow the manufacturer’s directions on proper cleaning and maintenance of needle-free injection systems.

For more information on how vaccines work and proper storage and handling recommendations, visit the SDSU Extension website for this fact sheet on vaccine basics and tips to maintain vaccine viability. South Dakota State University, Brookings, SD 57007. Call 1.605.688.4792 or email

Francie M Berg

Author of the Buffalo Tales &Trails blog

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