The Great Bison Adventure
On: December 19, 2015
As you make your way down the winding driveway leading to Vista Grand Ranch, located in Clermont County, you feel like you are transported out West. The 171-acre ranch is captivating in every sense of the word. Three German shepherds greet Jack Gridley, Dorothy Lane Market VP of Meat and Seafood, and I as we arrive. We hear chickens rhythmically clucking in the distance. A roaming peacock flutters by in all its brilliance. And Cindy Cassell, our gracious hostess, guides us through the adventure that is hers every day at Vista Grand Ranch, a former dairy ranch once in a dire state that’s been transformed into a slice of paradise perfect for raising Certified American Buffalo.
I feel a shiver of trepidation run down my spine as we near the field where the herd of buffalo quietly graze, with some weighing close to 1,000 lbs. These magnificent animals are not only awe-inspiring, but they are beautiful in every sense of the word. There’s something quite humbling about standing so close to these powerful creatures. Cindy points to a number of fields and a corral surrounding the ranch house and pole barn with gate closures strategically placed to keep the herd off fields that may require growth time or maintenance. She explains that raising grass-fed buffalo takes great care in pasture management, as you can’t have the buffalo graze until the grass is dead and once mud starts in an area, it must be rehabilitated as soon as possible. “You always want to foster your grass,” she says.
Vista Grand Ranch American Buffalo are never grain-fed or administered antibiotics and hormones. This isn’t always the case in the buffalo industry at large, which has followed in the footprints of the cattle industry with so many grain-finishing the animals and adding hormones to increase their mass.
Cindy and her husband David Uible, Clermont County commissioner, chose to raise buffalo for many reasons, including the fact that they’re relatively hands-off once provided the ideal environment to free-roam. Due to the nature and size of buffalo, Cindy, David, and ranch-hand Ben must always exercise caution when interacting with the animals. It’s also part of their routine to run the fence line of the entire farm weekly to ensure that everything is structurally intact, as the last thing you want is to wake up in the middle of the night with bison on the loose. But for Cindy, a dietitian with Kettering Sports Medicine, “the nutrition aspect plays into why I do it,” she says. Grass-fed bison meat has significantly higher levels of Omega-3 fatty acids and is considered a leaner protein. “Everything you can do with ground beef, you can do with buffalo,” says Cindy, calling out bison burgers, chili, or even meatloaf as meal ideas.
As we leave, I can’t help but think of Cindy and David, as well as their daughter Emma, as great adventurers. They embarked on a life as buffalo ranchers in Ohio with no prior experience, but are constant students of raising a healthy herd. And they’ve been tremendous partners with DLM for for 13 years and counting.