CN buffalo ranch sees additional fencing to corral
BULL HOLLOW, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation Buffalo Herd ranch recently received a $41,000 grant from the Inter-Tribal Buffalo Council to add pipe corral fencing to existing corrals on the west and south sides of the 236 acres of land in Delaware County where the herd resides.
The extension of the pipe corral fence allows Chris Barnhart, Natural Resources buffalo herd manager, and his team to easily access the buffalo and work with them.
“It’s a grassy area where we can use it to more easily get the buffalo in to be able to work them and take care of them, and it’s a bigger area we can use to wean the calves when they’re ready to be pulled off the cows,” Barnhart said.
The pipe for the fence is made of steel and has to be a certain width due to the sheer size and power of the animals.
“We use three-and-a-half-inch pipe for all of our posts and top rail. The center bars on all the fencing is one-inch sucker rod. Sucker rod is a solid steel piece of rod. We use that because just the sheer massiveness of a buffalo, if they hit a normal…two-inch pipe they’ll bend two inch. It’s seven-and-a half-foot tall because they can jump. They are big front-ended but they can jump as well,” Barnhart said.
He said all the inner-workings of the corral pipe system are plated to make it easier to handle buffalo.
“If a buffalo can see through something, they will try to go through it. That’s why we use such heavy pipe on everything,” he explained.
The buffalo operation started three years ago through a $70,000 grant from the ITCB that funded fencing, sheds and a pond for the herd.
In October 2014, the CN began acquiring a herd, about 30 females from the Badlands National Park in South Dakota and a mix of bulls and cows from the Teddy Roosevelt National Park in South Dakota.
The herd has since increased to a total population of 93 buffalo.
Barnhart said there is a possibility of acquiring more within the next year, but the idea is not set in stone.
“Right now we’re going to use the natural increase in the herd and see where we go from there,” he said.
He said buffalo “typically” do not breed until they are between three and five years of age, and only breed every one to three years. A possible “internal clock” tells the buffalo when to and when not to breed. For example, an oncoming drought would produce fewer calves.
“They’re not going to produce as much as they would in optimum range conditions,” Barnhart said.
The daily care of the herd includes feeding, checking fences and checking for “overall heard health.”
“We found that the best way to keep them from breaking anything is to keep them fat and happy. We feed a ration, kind of alternate between the regular range cube and an alfalfa cube. We supplement with hay, too. After that, we check our fences…to make sure there’s no holes, no breaking. Then while they’re eating, we check them just for overall heard health,” Barnhart said.
The CN Buffalo Herd ranch also attracts tourists and the ranch conducts approximately three to four school tours a month during the school year as well as regular CN visitor and guest tours.
On the tour, Barnhart tells tourists about the herd, the buffalo program and history on why buffalo were important to Cherokee people.
The new pipe fence is expected to be completed by mid-October.