Traveling Around - Rosebush, MI - Touring Pohl Bison Farm in Rosebush, Michigan
Finding Out And Planning
Having read about a tour being offered for Pohl's Bison Ranch in Rosebush, MI, my interest was piqued enough that I decided we'd see what it was like. I called and talked to the personnel at the ranch and found that the tour is held once a week on the first Saturday of the month at 10 AM. It is held only in the summer months. I called in August and asked about a tour on the first Saturday in September and was told to call back in the days approaching the first Saturday - that management would have a clearer idea of demand.
I called back on the 1st Thursday of September and found out that they were having a tour two days later.
We were to arrive at just before 10 AM and just get on the wagon. If no one was around, they'd be along presently to collect the fee and make sure we got settled.
Physical Activity and Layout
It was pretty chilly when we got up (43 degrees) so we layered our clothing. I wore a short sleeve shirt, a sweater, and a light jacket. The wife dressed similarly. When we got to the ranch (about 45 minutes from our house), it had warmed up into the 60's and although I kept my jacket on throughout the tour it wasn't really necessary.
Provided for our seating through the tour was a caged type trailer designed to protect the tourists. Seating was on bails of straw and there was space for about 25-30 adults and children. By departure time, seats were filling up and traffic was still turning in the driveway so the beginning of the tour was delayed until incoming traffic stopped. Final count on the trailer was about 25 including the married owner of the ranch and tour conductor. The tractor driver was the other half of the owner-operator couple at the ranch.
He smiled at us and said "We're going over a pasture. It's pretty rough country. I'll keep an eye on you and if you get to bouncing up and down too much, I'll slow down."
And, away we went.
The Pohl's claimed to have 40 acres and their use of it was arranged so that it appeared to be more than that. We had to go down a long driveway and out onto the highway to reach an entry gate that allowed us into the field where the bison were feeding and just standing around. It appeared to be about 1/4 mile from where we entered.
Feeding the Bison
Each of the tour members had been supplied with a coffee can full of pellets to feed the bison when they got close. Most wanted to know if they could just hand it out of the cage we were in and allow the bison to come up and eat. We were quickly told that we shouldn't do that - the bison might just eat our hand by mistake - but instead should toss the pellets out on the ground. When we did that, the bison had been expecting it when they saw the tractor and trotted over to our cage and started nuzzling and eating their treats.
Temperament of the Bison
We had been warned that excessive chatter on the cage wagon would startle and cause the herd to run. There were a number of preteen kids on the wagon that were pretty noisy and shortly after the bison began feeding, the leader became spooked and took off on a run. The herd followed and they wound up about as far away from us as they could get.
Dutifully, the driver started up the tractor and followed them. They had settled a little by the time we got there and were happy with their treats and their wallow. The wallow is an area that the bison cleared of vegetation and enjoyed lying down and rolling in the dirt.
After following the bison through a couple more pasture areas, they retreated to their original areas and the tour guides went on to a second part of the tour. They showed us the pen(s) area where two large pens had been constructed.
The bison have a "rutting" season much like other wild animals in that they breed annually. Each cow normally produces one calf although they did have one set of twins come out this year. When the calves are born, they weight from 40-50 pounds and at maturity they weigh about 1300 pounds.
The smaller of the two pens holds the calves that have been recently weaned from their mothers and is know as the "yearling pen". Calves are normally moved here around January of the year.
This pen also held an area that contained restraining walkways where all of the bison - yearlings and beef cattle and breeding cattle - can be directed for their annual physical checkups and necessary medical shots.
The weaning activity caused them to be a little fractious and they are kept in the "yearling pen" until they began to calm down when they are moved to a larger pen - the "beef pen" - where all the calves are approximately two years old. This pen was the last step in their lives and they lived in this one until it came time to turn them into table food.
Summary of the Trip
Right now at the ranch are 3 bulls, 24 cows, and 22 calves that roam the open fields. There are a total of 27 bison in the "yearling pen" and the "beef pen". The ranch is at the upper limit of what 40 acres can support and although they would like to grow, they cannot without additional land.
There is a gift shop and an outlet for the meats harvested from the animals. Several restaurants in the area have bison on their menus and buy from the Pohl's as does a restaurant in St. Louis, Missouri. They even sell bison bones for pet lovers whose pets cannot gnaw on other animal bones. The skulls and horns are for sale also.
Jim & Krista Pohl also have a bed and breakfast on the property.
There is a charge for the tour. It is undoubtedly a good idea to call about schedules and availability. The phone is 989-433-5841.