Bison calving season heats up in South Dakota

Newborn bison are being welcomed into the world at Kremer Buffalo Ranch in Custer, South Dakota.

Newborn bison explore the pasture at Kremer Buffalo Ranch in Custer, South Dakota.
Ariana Schumacher / Agweek

CUSTER, S.D. — Bison calving season has begun for many Bison producers across the country. At Kremer Buffalo Ranch in Custer, South Dakota, there have been newborn bison being welcomed into the world almost every day. Calving season is pretty hands-off for the Kremer Ranch.

“With calving season, it’s pretty much just monitoring every few days to make sure there isn’t any problems.

“They are for the most part self-sufficient, they do take care of themselves,” said Dr. Jeff Martin, assistant professor for the Department of Natural Resource Management at South Dakota State University . “It’s one of those selection properties that mother nature has already implemented a long, long time ago and has been implementing that for a long, long time, so they are really successful at doing it on their own and they will likely continue to be very successful at doing it on their own.”

Chad Kremer and Dr. Jeff Martin check on the herd.
Ariana Schumacher / Agweek

Kremer has been working with bison for 30 years, managing different herds across the country and now his own as well, as the bison in Custer State Park.

“Somewhere in 20 some thousand head that have calved over the 30 years that I’ve been in it, I mean we have only had difficulties with probably 10 to 12 head in that time, so when you look at the number and percentage wise it’s pretty low,” Kremer said.


Bison cows roam the pasture at Kremer Buffalo Ranch.
Ariana Schumacher / Agweek

Even if the bison were to have difficulties, it would be hard to help.

“With their quote wild nature and such, it’s often that you can’t do much about it, but if you can catch any problems with calving early enough, you know, you can intervene and do that,” Kremer said. “We’ve done that a couple of times, but it’s not very common.”

Kremer says working with bison can be compared to working with cattle , but the handling is different.

“It’s just getting to know the animal itself, the species, so there can be quite a bit of difference,” Kremer said. “Principles as far as handling and such, the basics are the same, but bison are unique in that they are still you know, partially wild, so the fight and flight zones on them are a lot touchier, I guess you could say.”

In South Dakota, the weather recently has been extreme, going from blizzard conditions to temperatures in the 80s and 90s, which can affect the bison as they calve.

“The biggest thing it can do is it can kind of trigger them to calf a little early or hold it and wait,” Kremer said.

A bison cow roams the pasture at Kremer Buffalo Ranch.
Ariana Schumacher / Agweek

Kremer is welcoming new bison into the world, in not ideal conditions.

“You know, we had 15 to 30 inches of snow right here in the area a week ago and now most all of it's gone and we are 80 degrees today, so it actually is probably a little bit more of a stressor on the bison, because they still have their winter coat on them right now. So these warm days like this are actually a little harder on them then those colder days,” said Kremer.


Kremer saw his first bison calve at the beginning of April and hopes to finish calving season around the middle of May. He expects to have 85 new calves this year.

Ariana is a reporter for Agweek based out of South Dakota. She graduated from South Dakota State University in 2022 with a double major in Agricultural Communications and Journalism, with a minor in Animal Science. She is currently a graduate student at SDSU, working towards her Masters of Mass Communications degree. She enjoys reporting on all things agriculture and sharing the stories that matter to both the producers and the consumers.

What To Read Next
Get Local