Farm Horizons, Sept. 2004

Where the buffalo roam: Juncewskis’ farm

By Jenni Sebora

Lenny Juncewski’s theme song for his Winsted farm might be “Oh Give Me a Home Where the Buffalo Roam.”

Juncewski has 30 acres of land where his 13 buffalo do roam. He has raised buffalo on his land for the past four to five years.

Juncewski bought the buffalo in North Dakota, where his daughter was going to college.

He traveled to Minot to visit his daughter and also paid a visit to a buffalo farmer, whose wife was a friend of Juncewski’s daughter.

He learned about raising buffalo, and the rest is history.

Buffalo may be marketed for their meat and by-products, for recreational hunting, and as breeding stock.

The total buffalo (bison) population in North America numbers 90,000, and about 85 percent of these animals are owned by private individuals, according to information obtained on the website:

The demand for buffalo meat has increased, primarily because consumers perceive it to be a leaner meat than beef and pork, which may mean the meat is lower in cholesterol.

Juncewski raised beef cattle at one time, but he sold the cattle and began raising buffalo for the meat because of the lower cholesterol, he said.

“I have high cholesterol, and buffalo meat is healthier than beef and has less cholesterol. My cholesterol did drop,” Juncewski said.

“My wife (Linda) makes jerky with buffalo meat, and it doesn’t shrink up. There is no fat or grease,” he added.

Juncewski also chooses to raise his own animals because he can control what is fed to them.

“The meat you buy has additives and concentrate. This is no good for a guy. I didn’t feed any concentrate to my cattle, and I don’t to the buffalo,” Juncewski said.

Buffalo will eat the same types of grain, grasses, and hay as cattle, however, they are more efficient feed converters than cattle.

Juncewski feeds his buffalo shell corn and hay and also gives them pellets with antibiotics in them, although he would not have to do this, Juncewski said.

Buffalo are herd animals and have a highly structured social order. Ignoring that social status can result in serious injury.

“Buffalo are mean, especially during the breeding season. If my dogs go into their fenced area, they wouldn’t last. Buffalo will attack dogs and not back away,” Juncewski said.

“The younger bulls will fight each other, as well. A dominate bull may even see a human as a threat,” he added.

Buffalo prefer cold temperatures and have a higher tolerance to cold than domestic cattle, Juncewski said.

They live longer than domestic cattle, and their immune system seems to be more resilient, as well. Buffalo cows can be productive until 20 years of age.

“They are the healthiest animal I know,” Juncewski said. He has never had a sick buffalo.

Mature bulls can weigh 3,000 pounds or more, and buffalo cows can weigh as much as 1,400 pounds.

The breeding season for Juncewskis’ buffalo begins in summer and runs into fall. The gestation period for buffalo is about the same as for beef cattle, 287 days. Buffalo usually produce one calf yearly.

The main facility requirement needed to raise buffalo is, primarily, special fencing that is very strong.

Juncewski uses spring-loaded fencing he ordered from Illinois that can take up to 15,000 pounds of pressure before it will break.

Buildings or other shelter are not necessary, and buffalo will probably not go into any type of shelter, Juncewski said.

“Buffalo like the open range. They are more like deer,” he said.

Currently, buffalo meat sells for $3 a pound for a hanging carcass. The retail selling price of buffalo meat is about twice the price of beef.

“A roast is about $11 per pound. There is twice as much prime rib in a buffalo, and the whole hump of a buffalo is meat,” Juncewski said.

The value of buffalo as breeding stock varies considerably. Custer Park in South Dakota has an annual auction of 480 animals, and there, a mature 10-year-old buffalo cow will usually bring between $1,200 and $1,800, the web site said.

Juncewski recently butchered a buffalo, and usually has two buffalo butchered yearly. He wants to keep his herd numbering about 14.

Juncewski said he has acquired a taste for buffalo and would never go back to eating beef.

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