Farmer raises buffalo near Monroe City

Friday, February 24, 2012 | 12:01 a.m. CST

MONROE CITY — As the sunbeams spear through the trees of the pasture, they move swiftly like ghostly shadows.

One second they're there. The next second, they're gone.

What was that? Where did they go?

It's not cattle, not a family of horses, but a herd of buffalo.

They're probably the last thing you'd expect to see farmed in Missouri, but Jerry Morris has always been infatuated with the animals, so when the opportunity arose to have a herd of buffalo roam his land at his weekend farm just outside of Monroe City, he went for it.

"I've always admired them and liked them," Morris said. "I think they're very majestic. I think they're probably one of the neatest animals that you're going to see in the Midwest that can be actually raised on a farm."

Currently a total of five bison graze the more than 20 acres of land Morris has sectioned off for the animals. They consist of two males, one female and two female calves. Hoss, the main male of the herd, weighs about 2,800 pounds. He came to the farm from Nebraska.

"When we brought him down here in our trailer and let him out, he was tame when he got off the trailer. He laid down in the dust and rolled like a house cat," Morris said. "That was a relief. We knew he was going to be in good shape."

Feed for the herd is simple and healthy — a combination of corn and oats. The plan is to expand the herd and eventually get involved with the high demand buffalo are having these days. Especially in the food industry.

"The meat is in demand, the heads are in demand if you ever want to mount them or sell them. Restaurants are definitely interested in the meat now because factors have proved that it is better than beef," Morris said. "We're going to keep raising the babies, see where we end up with them. It's a lot of fun getting them their oats and corn. I do want to keep the herd growing, and we'll probably get a few Hereford and few Black Angus for a different field when we get time to do it."

And raising the buffalo is a lot easier than raising traditional farm animals, such as cows and horses. Morris said they need more attention because they're more domesticated. The buffalo is more durable.

"The mother's had two babies now, and it's a very soothing thing to have something you can raise and watch and know that it's keeping the fields clean — it's something to watch grow," he said. "I think it's a lot more healthy for a person to have something like this for me than it would be playing golf."

Hoss and the rest of the herd aren't really the best-kept secret in the area, either. Almost daily, visitors come down the county road to watch the buffalo roam the pasture, take pictures and just take time to take in these animals that can't be found in too many farms nowadays in this part of the country.

"Everybody that knows about them wants to come out and see them, or stop, or wave or honk. Every day you'll see people stopped on the bridge wanting to look at them. The neatest thing is a lot of people in the area close by bring their families out to see the real, 100 percent, pure buffalo," Morris said. "They're not cross-bred with anything. These are the real deal."

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