About 40 years ago, Rich Boser of Genola purchased his first three buffaloes. His friend, Mike Vogel, who owned a herd of buffaloes inspired him to get into the business.
“Mike is the one who owned ‘Cody the Buffalo’ that was charging that girl in ‘Dances with Wolves.’ He raised Cody from when he was an orphan calf and he raised it with his puppy dog,’” Boser said.
But when Boser got rid of the buffaloes a few years later, he wasn’t too sure about getting back into it. That was, until his daughter, Cindy, who was 7 or 8 at the time, wanted to know why he didn’t have any. It was then he realized, he wasn’t the only one who had taken to the brown, furry animal, he said.
Today, Boser has 13 buffaloes on his farm in Pierz. Two are bulls, the rest are cows and heifers. He also has three calves..
The buffaloes are not too difficult to handle once they are settled into their pasture. But moving them to another paddock can prove tricky.
Even though Vogel’s Cody was broke to ride, buffaloes can still have a mind of their own and on top of that, also still have their wild instinct, Boser said. If a person doesn’t know how to handle a buffalo, it can quickly become dangerous and outright fatal.
“Those horns mean business. I once saw a buffalo pick up a dog, put its horn in the belly and just throw it up in the air. It killed the dog,” Boser said.
Because of the difficulty and danger of working with buffaloes, escaping from the pasture can become fatal for the buffaloes, as well.
“With that wild instinct, when they get out, they head to the wind. I had to shoot a couple once when they got out. If you’re raising buffaloes, you don’t have to be a little crazy, but it helps,” he said.
Boser raises buffaloes to sell and for their meat.
“It’s a healthy meat and has very little cholesterol in it. When you butcher it, it’s like with beef, it’s turned into steaks, roasts, hamburgers and sometimes jerky,” he said.
The taste of buffalo meat is something Boser’s wife, Margie, enjoys, as well, he said.
What Boser enjoys the most about raising buffaloes is seeing the calves being born.
“They’re really nice to look at. They’re so cute when they’re running around,” he said.
As with any agricultural market, Boser has seen the ups and downs. When he first got into the business, cows sold for about $3,000 each and calves for about $2,200. But when the market really dropped, Boser bought 22 calves from Wisconsin for $100 each.
One thing Boser has learned about buffaloes is that they prefer to live in the open. Shelters just aren’t their thing, he said.
Buffaloes also have a long life span and can produce calves well into their 20s. They usually don’t start having calves until they are 3-years old, Boser said.
The weight of each buffalo differs, but cows weigh about 1,100-1,200 pounds and bulls weigh about 1,700-1,800 pounds, although some may be a little heavier, he said.
On his farm, Boser also has about 150-200 head of a variety of cattle — Holsteins, Longhorn, beefaloes and more. Many of the steers are raised and then sold for their meat.
Boser is also part owner of Rich Prairie Livestock — the sales barn in Genola. Even though he cannot control the market prices, he strives to get farmers the best deal they can get for their animals, he said.
Boser didn’t grow up on a farm. In fact, he grew up in the city of Pierz. But his love for agriculture began when he was sent to work at his uncle’s farm.
“My dad died when I was pretty young,” he said.
The road to the farm he owns today has not always been straight. After he returned from serving in the Army in 1963-64, he worked in construction for about 10 years, building bridges and bought the farm in the late 1970s.
Boser crop farms, as well. Hay and corn are planted each year, which are used to feed the animals. It brings him great satisfaction to see good crops and the cattle looking good, he said.