Bison purchased for west coast farm

JNJ Bison Co. owner eager to start business

Ashley Fitzpatrick
Published on August 24, 2013
Wood bison to be transported to Newfoundland and Labrador, to begin
life at Michelle Young’s JNJ Bison Co. farm, at their current home in Alberta.
— Submitted photo

Michelle Young of Heatherton is preparing for a new arrival, weighing about 600 pounds. Well, actually 15 new arrivals, each weighing about 600 pounds.

Young is establishing a wood bison farm in the Bay St. George area and has just bought her starter animals from an Alberta breeder.

She will start with 15 animals, but information filed with the provincial government shows room for growth of the business, if it is successful, to 33 breeding heifers onsite by the tenth year of JNJ Bison Co. operations.

“I’m hoping to have them here by the end of September,” Young told The Telegram Friday.

The animals will be trucked in from Alberta. Their new owner said the job will be completed by a driver with experience moving high-stress animals like bison in Canada and long-horn cattle in Texas, in the United States.

“It should be fairly straightforward because bison are regarded as livestock across Canada ... but the Department of (Natural Resources) here, of course they’ve got concerns about bringing in a new species,” she said, explaining she has been working with wildlife officials to clear the farm plans.

This clearance is in addition to the environmental assessment process. The JNJ Bison Co. farm cleared that regulatory hurdle earlier this year, when the proposal for the farm was released from further assessment on April 5.

“It’s been a process,” Young said, when asked about the 2 1/2 years of moving through approvals to get her bison farm up and running.

At this point, her main farm site, on Farm Road off the Trans-Canada Highway near Robinsons, is not yet ready for her calves from Alberta.

“Before I can actually do any modification on that land, the Crown land office required me to have a survey put on it, and of course that’s not cheap. So that’s what’s happening right now,” she said.

Then comes some construction. The land was cleared seven or eight years ago for a farm venture, but has since had alder growth in the cleared area, Young said. There needs to be perimeter fencing and a corral system built.

But first, her survey needs to be completed and she needs to have lease in hand.

“And that’s probably another couple of months off yet ,for sure,” she said.

Young is building a temporary home of about 10 acres for her young bison in the meantime, helped by partners in the region such as Wade Alley at Loch Leven. Alley’s Loch Leven Slaughterhouse is where JNJ Bison Co. will eventually send its animals.

While not so cash-strapped as to consider walking away from her new business after going through regulatory review, Young said she is welcoming investors interested in helping her speed her construction process up.

As for her product, she said would-be customers have been seeking her out to ask about the bison meat and furs to be produced by her operation.

Despite all of the work and cost involved in getting the business up and operating, her excitement about the enterprise still shines through.

“This is opening the doors to a new industry,” she said.