West coast woman believes bison farm could take off
A west coast woman wants a home for the buffalo to roam.
Michelle Young doesn’t want deer and antelope though.
She wants to farm bison.
“Ideally, I’m hoping to have the land ready by the spring, so I can have animals here by the fall,” she says.
Bison is another name for buffalo.
Young started work on setting up a wood bison farm a few years back.
Ten days ago, her plan to set up on Farm Road, off the Trans-Canada Highway and near Robinsons, was listed in the provincial environmental assessment bulletin.
The Heatherton woman says she is “over the moon” to get to that stage.
According to the assessment bulletin, Young is proposing a 35-hectare wood bison farm, starting with a foundation herd of 15 animals and having 96 animals by year 10.
She says she’s applied to use former agricultural land that isn’t suitable for crops, but is hilly and rugged, which she says is perfect for bison.
The mother of three says her lack of experience has been an obstacle in dealing with the bureaucracy to set up the farm.
To change that, she’s leaving for central Alberta in a few weeks to work on an organic farm that herds bison and other livestock.
She was successful in getting funding for that.
“I’ll get some experience there,” she says.
Young is confident her concept can work. Her research indicates selling bison meat can be profitable.
“Basically, they sell on the hoof about 30 to 40 per cent more than cattle do,” she says.
“That’s just the meat,” she says. “You’re not talking about
the hide and bones.”
Young says she’s gauged the interest of some Newfoundland chefs, and they said they’d like to try cooking with bison meat, which is high in omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.
She’s believes the new Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band, of which she is a member, could provide a market for bison fur and other non-edible parts of the animal.
People in Heatherton are curious, she laughs, noting she gets a lot of raised eyebrows from them.
“Everyone thinks I’m off my rocker, but I want something that’s going to be unique and I think bison is going to go over really well here.”
Young is quick to point out hers is not the first attempt at farming bison in the province.
She says there was an experiment in the mid-1960s, when two dozen were introduced to Brunette Island off the Burin Peninsula.
The animals are reported to have died off in the 1990s.
The Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Agriculture is supportive of this latest interest in bison farming.
“Anyone who wants to get involved with agriculture and start a unique business, all the more power to them,” president Eugene Legge says of Young’s initiative.
“It’s great meat. There’s no cholesterol in the product whatsoever. It’s great healthwise.”
The Department of Environment and Conservation says the deadline for public comments on Young’s proposal is Oct. 26.
Minister Terry French’s decision is due by Nov. 1.