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May 28, 2009

 

Buffalo roam at Freetown farm

Ably Acres farm owner has been raising handful of American bison since October

BuffaloBob Ellis/staff photographer
Bob Dyer treats one of his buffalo to a handful of grass on his farm in Freetown.

By ELAINE HUGHES
Staff Reporter
ehughes@cortlandstandard.net

FREETOWN — Farmer Bob Dyer said he likes the challenge of taming wild animals and decided try to breed an animal not native to Cortland County: the American bison.
Dyer, who owns Ably Acres farm on the McGraw-Marathon Road, plucked grass from the ground one day last week, then stretched his hand inside the fenced area that holds his three adult buffalo and a calf that was born the morning of May 14.
“I think they’re so cool,” said Dyer, who retired from his position as a tool and die maker at BorgWarner in 2006 and has been raising pigs and cows, and growing produce full time ever since.
In October, Dyer bought two adult buffalo and a calf from a cousin near Horseheads. He said he spent three weeks trying to load the animals in a truck to bring them to his farm because the female did not want to be separated from her calf to be loaded on the truck. He bought the calf also.
He has since named the bull Wooly Bully and the female Momma.
When the buffaloes first arrived on his farm, Dyer said a lot of his neighbors came to see the animals and take pictures of them.
The animals have become tamer since then, Dyer said.
But he added that he still does not take his eyes off the animals when inside their fenced pen.
“I definitely don’t want them to come charging at me when my back is turned,” he said.
In 2007, the New York office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics conducted a census of the state’s farm animals and found more than 1,850 buffalo being raised on 67 farms across the state.
The state also experienced an increase of farms that raise buffalo, with 55 farms raising the animals in 2002 and 12 additional farms choosing to raise the animals in 2007.
But the number of buffalo raised in the state has decreased from 2,100 in 2002 to 1,850 in 2007, according to the USDA.
Heather Birdsall, a livestock specialist for the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cortland County, said she was not aware of any buffalo farms in Cortland County.
Eventually, Dyer said he intends to sell the buffalo meat but noted that would be three or more years down the road.
This summer, Dyer said he will focus on moving the animals to a 5-acre pasture on his farm and continue breeding them over the next few years to create a small herd.
For the next four weeks, Dyer said he will take meat-cutting courses at SUNY Cobleskill so he will be ready to handle the buffalo meat when the time comes to start slaughtering them.
“Things are starting to perk up (in Cortland County), and I think that we’ll have a pretty good niche started when it does,” Dyer said.
Right now, the buffalo are shedding their winter coats, and some of Dyer’s help on the farm has been collecting the soft wool to try to make into fabric.
Overall, Dyer said the experience of raising the buffalo has been a positive one.
“There’s always a new chapter in our book around here,” he said.

 

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