Can You Milk A Bison
The short answer to this question is yes, you can milk a bison. The real question is, would you want to? As you may know, bison can run 35 MPH and jump over 6 feet in the air. They are pack animals and will charge when they feel threatened, or when trying to protect their young. To milk a bison, one would have to hold a bison still and squeeze its utters like one would a cow. However, with the strength of a bison, it would not be wise to try this.
Has Anyone Ever Tried to Milk a Bison?
While attempts have been made to milk the American Bison, it was strictly scientific as they wanted to see if the milk had different properties from cattle.
1840’s - Robert Wickliffe noted that the bison milk was extremely rich.
1860’s - Mr. James P. Swain conducted careful tests and found cross-bison produce around 10 quarts per day. The milk contained whey and very little water.
1893 - Mr. Jones captured, and eventually saved 4 bison and attempted to feed them condensed milk which they did not like.
On August 25, 1929 - A Tennessee man was able to subdue a bison with the intent to milk them. The milk yielded 7.9% butter-fat and half the sugar content of an ordinary cow’s milk.
The facts in this post and the table below are primarily pulled from ‘All About Bison’:
Can Bison Calves Survive Without Milk?
In 2001, Vern Anderson, Dale Burr, Tim Schroeder, Chris Kubal, and Eric Bock studied if bison calves could survive without their mother’s milk. Bison under the age of 4 weeks have a hard time surviving without their mother’s milk. However, bison after the age of 6 weeks had about a 60% chance of survival when provided nutrient-dense foods.
There are some milk substitutes for young calves whose mothers are not able to provide for them, but JJ Bison cannot confirm they work as we have no experience with them. An example is below:
Crude protein (minimum) 27%
Protein from milk sources (minimum) 27%
Crude Fat 24%
Ash (Maximum) 8%
Calcium (Actual) 0.90%
Phosphorus (Actual) 0.70%
Vitamin A (Minimum) 40,000 UI/kg
Vitamin D3 (Minimum) 4.000 UI/kg
Vitamin E (Minimum) 80 UI/kg
What about bison cheese?
According to the National Bison Association, any buffalo milk or cheese is produced from a water buffalo as opposed to a bison like JJ Bison raises. Although “buffalo” and “bison” are two terms that are seemingly used interchangeably, the “buffalo” is native to Africa and Asia, while “bison” is found in North America and Europe. Bison, such as the herd at JJ Bison, have large shoulders and heads, as well as thick coats which they obtain during the winter. On the other hand, water buffalo have large, curved horns as opposed to the shorter horns of the bison.
So, Should You Milk a Bison?
The short answer is, no, you should never attempt to milk a bison. Bison can be very aggressive. This is not because they’re genuinely mean animals, but because they are territorial, protective, and excitable. The case in 1929 only proved that when a bison is completely held down it could be milked, and it’s incredibly difficult to get a bison in this position safely. We personally have never attempted to milk a bison for the above reason, but also because we want to ensure the milk is reserved for the young calf. So, yes, you can milk a bison, but we don’t recommend it.
Contact us today, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us at (443) 252 - 2099 to order your bison today!
Again, a special shout-out to AllAboutBison. We spoke recently and we're so lucky to be a part of the bison community with them!