In the heart of buffalo country the bison auction was serious business Sunday. While the debilitating drought and uncertainty for the summer has affected all aspects of agriculture, people in the bison business said it is still fairly good.
The annual Dakota Territory Buffalo Association sale was standing room only as close to 100 people from as many as 15 states packed into the Captain Glen Building at the Central States Fairgrounds.
Some bison on the auction block stirred lively bidding wars while several had the auctioneer dropping the prices trying to coax more bids.
Outside, ranchers cited drought conditions and high prices for feed as having a major effect on their operations, influencing the way they were buying.
Dan Meyer of Sauk Centre, Minn., said the drought has not been as bad there, but the price of feed is really hurting him.
"We have decent crops there, but a lot of our hay and crops are going this way," said Meyer.
He has about 150 bison on his ranch split between a herd for breeding and those for a feed lot or ones that will be slaughtered for meat. Saturday, he had purchased about 10 head before stepping outside for a break. He said he came to Rapid City for the quality of buffalo sold here.
Show and sale chairman Chad Kremer said the prices were only slightly lower than last year, and they had 20 to 30 more bison for sale.
Kremer said despite the drought and uncertainty, he sees more people getting into the bison business.
Bruce Anderson, owner of Western Buffalo Company in Rapid City, thinks the growing interest in bison meat might be helping.
"It’s a dynamite product in the marketplace," said Anderson, who recently provided bison meat for the presidential inauguration luncheon.
He said the prices at auction would be a little better if it was not for the drought, but they are still strong.
"They’re indicative of the dry conditions and the interest in the market," said Anderson. "There’s a lot of dynamics at play in the buffalo market. Prices would be a little better without the concern over the drought, but I think people are very satisfied."
He said many of the animals sold yesterday were bound for feed lots. But if conditions were a little better, they might live a little longer because people would be more interested in expanding their operations.