Purchase photos

White buffalo grace Logan County pastures

9/23/2012

By MIKE CORN

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

ELKADER -- They're rare and considered sacred by Native Americans, but Richard Duff has several white bison grazing contentedly in a Logan County pasture.

"We call them all white if they're mostly white or have white on them," Duff said.

Duff maintains a buffalo herd in Logan County, selling both grass-fed and grain-fed meat through an online outlet.

He also sells head mounts and robes, as well as providing tours of his buffalo herd.

Duff said he's had white bison on his ranch since 1994, when the first one was born.

"We were all excited," he said of the first white calf born in his herd.

But people kept saying the calf had been interbred with cattle, producing what's known as beefalo.

Not so, Duff said, and they have the DNA tests to prove it.

They've never bred buffalo with cattle, he said.

They can even pinpoint the bull -- out of 13 herd bulls -- responsible for producing the calf.

That bull, he said, was purchased from Custer State Park in South Dakota.

"He was not very fertile," Duff said of the bull, and the cow struggled after giving birth.

"After having a calf with white on it, we thought we'd better keep him," he said. "Now we have several descendants of his out there."

One of them is in a pasture along with its mother, recuperating from what Duff thinks is a case of selenium poisoning.

Essential in small doses, the element is rich in Logan County and other parts of northwest Kansas.

"In the old days, when they passed through, it would have been ideal," Duff said, as the animals would consume enough to keep them healthy but then move on to pastures containing less of it. Now fenced in, sometimes they consume too much of it, especially in times of drought when plants especially rich in selenium are readily available.

The cow's fine, Duff said, but he's afraid the calf might continue to suffer from slightly curled toes -- one of the side effects of too much selenium -- for some time.

With a herd of approximately 400 cows, Duff pulls animals from his herd and puts them in a feedlot near Scott City, where they will be grain fed and fattened up for slaughter. Some remain on grass and will be sold as grass-fed bison.

"We sell meat all over the country," he said of products sold through their website, duffmeats.com.