Learn about raising bison and farm energy conservation at a Practical Farmers of Iowa field day – Sept. 3, near Fredericksburg

For Release: August 15, 2014

FREDERICKSBURG, Iowa — Bison and cattle may be close cousins on the same family tree, but when it comes to raising them on the farm, there are some pretty big differences.

“All but the two days of the year when you have to work with bison, they are much easier than cattle because they’ve evolved as part of the ecosystem,” says Martha McFarland, who raises both bison and cattle at Hawkeye Buffalo with her father, Dan, near Fredericksburg. “Bison are natural caretakers and don’t require the same amount of antibiotics or vaccinations. They’re really hardy and do well on their own.”

Martha will share her family’s experiences grazing both types of bovines – as well as their recent on-farm energy conservation work – at a Practical Farmers of Iowa field day she is hosting on Wednesday, Sept. 3, from 3:30-6 p.m., near Fredericksburg. Hawkeye Buffalo is located at 3055 Pembroke Ave., about 6 miles southwest of town (right next to Split Rock County Park). The event – “Energy Conservation at Home on the Range” – is free to attend and will include a bison dinner catered by a local chef following the field day. RSVPs are requested for the meal. Please contact Lauren Zastrow at (515) 232-5661 or lauren@practicalfarmers.org by Friday, Aug. 29.

Attendees will get to join Martha and staff from Green Iowa AmeriCorps in a discussion and tour of the energy audit and weatherization process at the McFarlands’ house and farm, which included assessing and weatherizing the original 1870’s farmhouse and 1940’s chicken coop. Guests will also get to learn about bison grazing, tourism and meat sales, and the unique challenges – and advantages – of raising bison and cattle.

Martha says that while bison husbandry can be easier for most of the year, rounding up and handling them is more difficult than cattle: “Bison are wild animals. When you have to catch them, it can get a little tricky. While 15 mph would be fast for a cow, bison can run up to 50 mph and jump a barbed wire fence. They’re like big ninjas. And because they can jump, the whole sorting facility has to be set up to prevent that.”

She adds that a bison’s inherent defense in the wild is not to be aggressive, but rather to run away. “So getting them across a road or through a gate you want them to go through isn’t the easiest thing. You just have to approach them much more slowly and cautiously.”

Hawkeye Buffalo Ranch is located on 500 acres of rolling hill and timber country in northeastern Iowa. The family ranch dates back to 1854 when Dan’s great-grandfather settled the land. Today, Martha manages the buffalo with her father and is expanding the Hereford cattle herd. The ranch provides tours and sells buffalo meat.

Directions: Hawkeye Buffalo is located 4.5 miles east of U.S. 63 and 3 miles south of U.S. 18. Look for signs on U.S. 63 and in the town of Fredericksburg.

Practical Farmers of Iowa’s 2014 field day season features 35 field days around Iowa. All field days are open to the public, and most are free to attend. The guide is available on Practical Farmers’ website, or contact the PFI office at (515) 232-5661 to request a printed copy.

Practical Farmers’ 2014 field days are supported by several sustaining and major sponsors, including: Albert Lea Seed; BlueStem Organic Feed Mill; Calcium Products; Center for Rural Affairs; Featherman Equipment Company; Gateway Market and Café; Grain Millers, Inc.; Grassland Oregon; Iowa Beef Center; Iowa Farm Service Agency (USDA); Iowa Farmers Union; Iowa State University Department of Agronomy; Iowa State University Extension and Outreach; Iowa Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE); Iowa’s Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (ICASH); ISU Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture; Klinkenborg Aerial Spraying and Seeding, Inc.; La Cross Seed – Soil First; Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture; Midwest Insurance Corporation; MOSA Organic Certification; Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES); National Wildlife Federation; Organic Valley – Organic Prairie – CROPP Cooperative; The Nature Conservancy in Iowa; Wallace Chair for Sustainable Agriculture; and Welter Seed and Honey Company.


Founded in 1985, Practical Farmers of Iowa is an open, supportive and diverse organization of farmers and friends of farmers that seeks to strengthen farms and communities through farmer-led investigation and information-sharing. Farmers in our network produce corn, soybeans, beef cattle, hay, fruits and vegetables, and more. For additional information, call (515) 232-5661 or visit www.practicalfarmers.org.


Martha McFarland | Hawkeye Buffalo | (641) 229-6701 | hawkeyebuffalo@gmail.com

Tamsyn Jones | Practical Farmers of Iowa | (515) 232-5661 | tamsyn@practicalfarmers.org