Bison family lead the herd
WHEN you think of bison, you think of the wide open plains and savannah's of North America and not half an hours drive from Casino, NSW.
Yet, if you visit Myrtle Creek you'll find Aranyani Bison Adventure Tourist Park run by a family Nobbys Creek, near Murwillumbah.
A carpenter by trade, Damen Wells and his wife Shannon had always dreamed of running a farm and jumped at the chance to try something different.
"I'd seen the movie Dances With Wolves but we didn't really know what they were,” Mr Wells said.
"One of Shannon's old family friends said they knew the guy who bought bison into the country.
"We'd owned the property for a year and because we'd learnt all of the advantages to farming bison we found out nobody was supplying the restaurants here. We figured it'd always be a bit of a niche market and we wanted to get in on it at the ground floor.”
Mr Wells said he'd tried breeding brahman cattle at first but once he had discovered the advantages of bison farming there was no going back.
"They're probably easier than brahmans,” he said.
"There were so many advantages to farming bison over cattle. They breed longer and quicker, they live longer, they have a more efficient digestive system, they don't overgraze and they're the fastest growing land mammal from eating grass alone.
"They're also the only mammal that doesn't get cancer.”
Mr Wells said bison tend to work as a family unit, always being mindful of each other and their surroundings.
"They have less calving problems than cows,” Mr Wells said.
"They're even known to deliver breeched calves going backwards by themselves.”
While breeding and farming the bison can take some time, Mr Wells decided to open up Aranyani Bison Adventure Tourist Park to educate the public on the benefits of the wild beast.
"It's sort of fun, something different,” he said.
"Once we bought our first 10, everyone was asking where we got them from, assuming we'd brought them into the country, so I decided to set it up like a tourist park so people could come to visit.
"We get a lot of bus groups for elderly and disabled groups, school camps and even weddings. It's all wheelchair friendly, as it's built for everyone of all ages.”
Over the years, Mr Wells has tried to improve his skills when it comes to breeding and farming bison, even visiting a bison conference in America.
"We stood out in the freezing cold snow listening to this guy talk about bison and grazing,” Mr Wells said.
"I was talking to people who were third-generation bison farmers. I looked at everyone's systems and then came back to Australia to finish building my yards and bought another 13 from a guy in Victoria. It just sort of snowballed from there.”
While bison meat might not be that common in Australia, Mr Wells said there are so many benefits to eating the lean meat that he believes it will soon be highly sought after.
"The meat is really good for you,” he said.
"It's been taking off in America since the early 1990s that they've even got it in all of the schools now because it's so lean. It's the leanest meat they reckon because they're the only animal in their primitive form since they've never been domesticated by humans. The meat is high in protein, iron and B12 but low in fat, carbs and calories.”
Mr Wells will be returning to America next year to speak at a bison conference on Australian bison breeding practices.