by Joni Astrup
Roland Burquest and his wife, Marlys, were on their way home several years ago when they spotted a sign for bison meat near Hudson, Wis.
They knew the meat was low in fat and healthy and were thinking about trying it, so they stopped in and bought some. As it turned out, they liked the flavor.
That marked the beginning of a new adventure, as it led to their own foray into the bison business.
Roland said he figured as long as they had enough land where they live in Nowthen, they could raise their own bison.
Six years ago they got their first bison. Today they are raising five bulls for the meat, and will sell their bison meat for the second year at the Nowthen Farmers Market. The farmers market will be held from 3–7 p.m. Thursdays, beginning June 21. In its second year, the farmers market will be held at 199th Avenue and Nowthen Boulevard in Nowthen.
The Burquests call their operation Burquest Bison. The Burquests’ son, Aaron, lives nearby and is also involved in it.
Roland said the cuts are similar to beef. He sells roasts, steaks, ground burger, pre-made patties, buffalo sticks (which have a little beef in them) and hot dogs (which contain a little pork).
He plans to have most of those items at the Nowthen Farmers Market, but said he can’t guarantee he’ll always have everything.
Bison: Beautiful, smart and interesting
No stranger to livestock, Roland grew up on the farm next door to where he lives now and raised pigs when his own children were younger.
Although he didn’t farm for a living (he spent four years in the Air Force and 26 years working for the postal service before retiring), he clearly enjoys it.
He said bison are beautiful, intelligent and very interesting.
“They seem to be a curious animal yet they’re a little skeptical of people,” he said.
They also remain a wild animal, he said, and he doesn’t go into the pasture with them.
“They’re quicker than quick so if they decided to turn on you, you wouldn’t have a chance,” he said.
He keeps his bison in a pasture surrounded by a 6-foot-high woven wire fence. There they have pasture land for grazing and woods for shelter.
He said bison are typically healthy and easy to raise. They don’t need shelter and, in fact, don’t care to go into a building, he said.
Their food preference is grass. Roland feeds them grass hay and a little ground corn. In the summer they also graze in the pasture.
He typically buys the calves when they weigh 350–400 pounds, and butchers them about a year and a half later when they weigh 1,200 pounds. His latest animals, however, came from Forest Lake and weighed about 700 pounds when he got them.
He has the animals processed in Lindstrom, which has an inspector on duty. Because he sells the meat at retail, his animals and the meat have to be inspected.