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Keeping Your Herds Healthy — Guest Post by Bob Mahoney

Keeping Your Herds Healthy — Guest Post by Bob Mahoney

It is the time of year to think about care of the buffalo. One of those things to think about is external and internal parasites that affect the animals.

Probably when the buffalo roamed free across the North American landscape, parasites for the animals were not such an issue. Mainly because they were on the move all the time and the life cycle of internal parasites was distributed because the host animals were long gone before they could infect a warm body again. Hard to tell, but that might have been the likely scenario.

Today, buffalo are forced to be contained in pastures big and small, so they aren’t able to roam like they used to. Now the life cycle of internal parasites has an available host that can’t move from the infected area. Buffalo caregivers must now consider some type of control methods to maintain healthy animals.

Parasites can really cause a lot of problems for buffalo when not treated. Forage and the food they eat is not utilized as well; it can cause lots of issues to tissue and organs and just the general well-being of the animals.

I have asked my friend and fellow buffalo expert to give us some advice on what caregivers should consider. Thanks Bob for sharing. We will be giving other tips and ideas for caregiving in future blogs.

Line of bison and calves walking through grass and grazing.

Internal Parasites

By Bob Mahoney

Trudy of Tanka Fund asked me if I would write several articles for the fund’s blog. To do this, I would usually start from the ground up, and in a way I am. I am talking about Internal Parasites, roundworms.

There are several species of roundworms that can and will have devastating deadly and economic effects on both tribal and native bison/buffalo herds, unless they are addressed in a timely manner.

Most tribal and Native American entities do not have a portable squeeze chute with crash gate and portable corral system to work their herds. I am going to give you, the reader, an overview of what you need to be aware of the signs and symptoms and what you can do to address these health issues in your herds.

Internal parasites are caused by basically one thing, overgrazing. By this I mean taking the grass height levels down ground level In other words grazing their own waste products. If you see animals off by themselves away from the herd, go up and check them out, get them up, watch and see if their poop is normal or severe diarrhea. If it’s the later, it is time to get some stool samples. Take these to your vet for analysis to let you know the type and species of worms you have.

The average lifespan of these various species of roundworms is 28 days. That’s why you worm them two weeks apart.

As parasites loads increase within your herds, some of the other noted are loss of conditioning, walking skeletons with pot guts. Also, if bison cows aren’t wormed prior to calving, the calves will be loaded with worms too.

The best product I’ve used in cases stated above is Safeguard topdressing and/or Safeguard lick tubs, as long as they are two weeks apart. After that, put them on fresh pasture.

I hope this helps a lot to keep your herds healthy. Till next time, have fun and enjoy.

Photo of Bob Mahoney.


About Bob Mahoney

My connection with our National Mammal begins some 68 years ago with a picture of my dad and myself gazing on a small group of bison at Custer State Park. This fascination with these Monarchs of old, bison, became an all-out obsession with the reading of David Dary’s The Buffalo Book in 1977. It made me want to discover more about these furry beasts.

As the years went by, I gradually learned several things about these critters hands on, through a lot of observation, and through various books. Not without several close calls, and one hooking, which I deserved, I’ll admit. Call it the school of hard knocks.

I worked with bison in various capacities as ranch hand, manager, or bison herdsman for almost 48 years and enrolled at North Dakota State University in a misguided attempt to accrue all I’ve learned about my woolly brothers and sisters. I needed to enroll in that as the savory method of holistic management. Since that time, I’ve seen several different versions of this method evolve, the most recent being regenerative grazing method, which has the same ideas as holistic management for the most part.

I respect these mammals for their long history on this rock we call Mother Earth. They, along with prairie dogs, are the caretakers of the Grassland regions of the world, and they do it very well when they have all they need to make it work. By this I mean plenty of room to roam, large land base, and plenty of water, grass and minerals.

I consider myself as a grass farmer before stockman, as buffs are a cool tool we use to harvest the sun’s energy. Which in turn we harvest as a high-energy protein. I hope this helps future generations. Most of all, above all else, enjoy and have fun. Thank you.