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More than 15 years ago I was struggling in the beef cattle industry because I was doing things exactly the way everyone else was doing them—raising cattle and then taking them to the feedlot. It’s a great business when things are good but when the market is down you are in the dumps as well.
The experience of coming face-to-face with a buffalo opened my eyes that this is the animal that is natural to the Great Plains and still perfectly suitable for grazing and, ultimately, harvesting for meat.
Yet my “BHAG” was yet to come. BHAG, as you may know, stands for Big Hairy Audacious Goal that James Collins and Jerry Porras wrote about in their book “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies.”
Raising buffalo was part of the BHAG but how we raise the buffalo was the really interesting part of the story…the “Wild Idea,” if you will. Instead of raising bison to a certain age and then shipping them to the feedlot, we let them graze on the land until they are full-size.
They also eat grass—100% grass (the key is the 100% part). The other parts of their existence are water and sunshine. We don’t feed them grain or corn to fatten them up. We never inject the bison with hormones or antibiotics.
In addition, buffalo is the one of the few red meats recommended by the American Heart Association because it is very low in total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium.
The bottom line is that Wild Idea Buffalo is a very strong business that grows every year…sometimes more than we feel we can handle at a given moment. My advice to anyone starting a small business is to stop playing the game everyone else is trying to win. Reinvent the rules and watch the market come running to you.