Monday, February 10, 2014

National Bison Association Winter Conference in Review!

The National Bison Conference is held yearly in Denver, CO in conjunction with the Western Stock Show.  This year was our 11th year in a row attending the conference. With 400 in attendance, this seemed to be the largest participation of bison enthusiasts. We filled the classrooms during the day and the banquet hall for social/dinner in the evening.

"Producers and marketers at our annual conference {last week} celebrated that, as more consumers discover the great taste and nutritional attributes of bison meat, our business is experiencing unprecedented strength and stability," said National Bison Association (NBA) Executive Director Dave Carter as the conference came to a close. Therefore, many of the events focused on information to build bison herds to meet this growing demand.  For example, there was a mentoring session that paired new/potential producers, with experienced ranchers. Also at the conference, members were encouraged to adopt FFA or 4-H chapters in their area through the Student Group Membership program. The NBA provides ample resources to support such an endeavor for our future bison ranchers.

Speaking of providing for the future...Ted Turner has been the catalyst for much of the growth we see in the bison industry. He has funded the Bison Genome Project, which helps ranchers identify their herds as 'pure bison.' Most recently, Turner has funded research and the development of a vaccine for mycroplasma bovis. The M. bovis will be made available for minimal cost to bison producers. He is a true champion to the bison industry.  

The highlight of the conference, in my opinion, was the presentation and book signing by Todd Wilkinson, author of  Last Stand:  Ted Turner's Quest to Save a Troubled Planet. Wilkinson's presentation was a tribute to Ted Turner, not at all a sales pitch for his new book.  Wilkinson discussed Turner's longtime dedication to the environment, and to human-kind.  I am about halfway through the book, and I can tell you, Ted Turner is not only a champion for our bison industry, but for the entire world and those who inhabit it; both 2-footed and 4-footed.

During my first NBA conference some 11 year ago, I was struck at how generous these 'bison people' were to share their knowledge with each other.  They wanted others in this industry to learn from their successes, as well as, their mistakes. The winter conference provides this opportunity to catch up with old friends, and to generate new friendships.  We are a close-knit group, who share a passion for this amazing animal!  As one sits at the banquet the night before the Gold Trophy Show and Sale, one can feel the energy in the room. The energy stems from a passion that unites all 400 of us; the passion we all have in common: the American Bison!

I look forward to the NBA summer conference (June 4-7, 2014) which will be held in Branson, MO, this year. Our ranch, Miller Bison at  Elkhead Ranch, will be the host ranch this year.  We will host a tour of the ranch and lunch (albeit, the details are not yet finalized for date and time). Randy and I look forward to welcoming our 'bison family' to Elkhead Ranch!


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