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At one point, Swauk Prairie Bison had 60 bison on the ranch, now they have just eight. Owner Jim Hanson said the number has been decreasing for the last few years, and this is the least amount of bison he has had for years.

Hanson’s daughter, Jody Thayer is taking over many of the responsibilities of running the ranch. He said she is “breathing new life into it and doing new things.”

“He has done such a nice job with the foundation of the bison up there and raising them, that I don’t want the business to die, they are too cool,” Thayer said.

Thayer is mostly taking care of the business aspects of the ranch and isn’t ready to start working full time. She has a five-year plan to bring the number of bison back up to around 30 or 40. This is her ultimate goal, and she hopes she is able to meet it.

“I want to get the buffalo back on the map, it is just such an iconic place,” Thayer said. “To keep the business going in the direction my dad had it.”

Hanson said the Swauk Prairie Ranch has been in his family since the late 1800s, but he was the first to start ranching bison. He bought his first bison in 1989 and kept it on a friend’s ranch while his was being renovated to contain the bison. He moved the bison to his ranch in the early ‘90s

“I was always interested in the opening of the west and the mountain man era, and the bison just fit right into that,” Hanson said. “So, I went to a couple ranches back then and helped them work their bison and helped them with general chores and I got hooked on them. They are a magnificent animal, they are very quiet and very gentle unless you rile them up.”

The bison are raised for livestock, and eventually sold for their meat. According to Hanson, a single bison can be sold for an average of $2,000 — $3,000. The price can fluctuate based on where it is being sold and the demand.

Hanson said bison are a fairly easy animal to raise, providing you have the right equipment and the space. They have a strong immune system, so he doesn’t have to worry about them getting sick. He just needs to make sure they are given food, water and salt. Other than that he said, “they basically take care of themselves.”

Thayer said she and her father are currently running the ranch 50-50, but that she hopes to take on more and more responsibility. She said he wants to focus on raising the animals, so she will be taking the rest of the work off his plate.

She started to take more responsibility once the coronavirus outbreak put everybody into quarantine. This gave her the free time she needed to start working with the ranch.

“The ranch is a place that is very near and dear to my heart and it’s been in my family for quite a few generations,” Thayer said. “I’m happy to be a part of it in any way that I can. I love being able to share it with everybody else.”


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