Just south of town, with little pomp and splendor, the Bouffioux family has been patiently and carefully branding a name for themselves with their prizewinning bison.
Raising the animals for breeding stock and meat is a business the Bouffiouxs have been in for 26 years, and if their recent successes are any indication, they show no signs of slowing down.
The family brought home grand champion, first, second and third place prizes for their bison at the Canadian Bison Association 2015 Show and Sale in Regina Nov. 22 — no small feat. As if that weren’t enough, the ranchers’ daughter, Sandy, also took home Rookie of the Year.
Although the Bouffiouxs are no strangers to winning awards at the national competition — having won the grand champion four times in a row now, according to Bill Bouffioux — this year’s wins were especially satisfying.
“I think the greatest thing is we got first, second and third in one class, against all the bison in Canada. That’s pretty remarkable,” he said in an interview with the Alaska Highway News.
He estimates there were 70 bison in the competition, with most entries coming from Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. Some years, a rancher in the Northwest Territories participates. But the Bouffiouxs’ XY Bison Ranch is the only one in B.C. that competes.
The secrets to their success are simple enough.
“We’ve carefully selected our females over the years and what I thought would make good herd sires, and we’ve just slowly over the years improved our herd,” Bouffioux said.
While bison is their business now, it wasn’t always. The family started out with Hartford cattle, but found it was too much work.
“They had calving problems, so you had to watch them for six weeks... they would have navel infections, and you would have scours, and all sorts of problems,” he said.
In the summertime, pink eye and foot rot were common ailments.
Bison are more hardy animals, Bouffioux explained.
“Bison are pretty well resistant to all those problems, plus they cattle out on the range on their own, so there’s not as much chance of getting navel infection, or some of the cattle problems," he said. "I mean, they lived by themselves for (millions of) years... so they’re very self reliant... they’re very, very resistant to almost everything.”
The hefty animals don’t need bedding or shelters, said Bouffioux, adding that they love the cold weather. “The colder it gets, the higher up on the hill they go, and face into the wind.”
Despite the -20 C temperatures, his bison are still out grazing on the Bouffioux’s 3,300 acres. Cattle, he said “would have been in feeding a long time ago.”