Ranch Description: Snowcrest Ranch
Location - Alder, Montana
Year Acquired - 1993
Size - 38,700 acres
Cows Exposed - 475
Cow to Bull Ratio - 11:1
Maximum Bull Age - 4 years
The Snowcrest Ranch is a 38,000-acre property located in the mountain foothills of Southwest Montana. Terrain varies throughout the ranch from extensive riparian areas, rolling grasslands, timber, and extends to the top of the Snowcrest Mountain Range. Throughout the course of a year bison will graze from 5,800’ elevation to 9,500’ at the top of the mountains. The bison are exposed to many environments from swimming the Ruby River, trailing on county roads and open pastures, and roaming on USFS allotments that require non-motorized horseback only handling. The ranch also operates a Management-intensive Grazing (MiG) system with the bison being moved every 1-10 days throughout the growing season. Due to the location of the ranch, wildlife is abundant including elk, deer and pronghorn. The bison are also frequently exposed to apex predators such as wolves and grizzly bears.
The Snowcrest Ranch bison originate from the Castle Rock Bison herd at Vermejo Park Ranch, New Mexico being transplanted to Montana in 2015. The Snowcrest herd presently consists of 475 cows exposed with a cow to bull ratio of 11:1. The breeding bulls are aged 2-4 years. Breeding bulls are managed with conservation genetics at the forefront. They are culled after breeding at 4 years old to ensure maximum genetic diversity by maintaining a younger contingent of bulls. Both replacement bulls and replacement heifers are selected from the middle of the yearling weight curve for the entire age class. This maintains a moderate frame size with mature cows weighing 875 to 950 pounds and mature bulls weighting 1,600 to 1,700 pounds. The moderate frame size allows them to travel long distances and perform well on grass in extreme conditions. The breeding herd is supplemented cake minimally for protein and handling in winter months only. The herd is typically worked in November. During fall works they are pregnancy checked, vaccinated for Mycoplasma, and dewormed (if needed) based on fecal analysis pre-works. Calves are also weaned at this time. The breeding herd is handled with ATV’s, horseback and on foot.
At weaning the calves are handled on horseback, on foot or by ATV being moved frequently teaching them to handle and give to pressure. Supplementation over winter consists of cake pellets for protein while grazing dormant forage. Hay is fed for brief times to the young animals depending on snow conditions. The bulls and heifers are comingled in winter months, then sorted by sex for the summer months grazing. The bulls graze irrigated pastures and are moved every few days in a management intensive grazing system. The heifers graze irrigated ground early and then are moved to a USFS allotment in the mountains. They are moved and handled horseback for the summer months.
The Snowcrest Ranch crew takes great pride in the ability to handle these bison in any condition. The bison are exposed to a wide variety of terrain, predators, and containment. Handling the bison properly using low-stress livestock handling is our priority. Mother Nature has selected these bison for their environment. They can travel long distances, thrive in native or introduced forages and stay reproductive in harsh environments. Snowcrest bison are exposed to multiple types of fences with many being 2 and 3 wire high tensile permanent and temporary electric fences.
The bison included in the auction are selected from the best average daily gain from weaning weight until fall of their yearling year.
The Castle Rock bison on the Snowcrest Ranch experienced a Mycoplasma outbreak in the summer of 2017. The outbreak was primarily isolated to the breeding herd. The ranch has been absent of Mycoplasma since the fall of 2017. All Snowcrest bison are vaccinated and boostered with Mycoplasma vaccine each year. The sale bulls have received Virashield 6, Alpha 7, and Nuplura vaccines and have been dewormed.