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Southeast N.D. couple in the bison business

CHRISTINE, N.D. – North Dakota State University does not have the only “thundering herd” in the area.

Just 25 miles south of Fargo is the Eagle Valley Bison Ranch, where Randy and Sharri Lacher tend a herd of 100 bison.

The Lachers sell products such as jerky sticks, ground bison, roasts and sausage under the Lewis & Clark brand name on their website and in area Hornbacher’s stores.

They also recently secured deals to sell products at two new Fargo eateries.

Peoples Organic Café serves their bison breakfast sausage and burgers, and Wurst Bier Hall will soon serve their country sausage with cheese.

Learning about bison

The Lachers bought their first bison in 1994 as a hobby. They learned some valuable lessons during those first few years.

Lacher said the bison have only gotten out of their 8-foot pen when someone has accidentally has left a gate open, with one exception. In the winter of 1996, their small herd walked up a snowdrift and over the fence. Today he piles the snow up to keep them in.

He also learned it is best to remove the bison horns. Even as young calves, a playful nudge from those horns can do some damage.

Speaking of playful, he learned that bottle-fed bison calves can become as attached as the family dog.

“They’re worse than a dog because they follow you everywhere,” Lacher said. “We had one that wanted to get on the bus with the kids and I had to pull him back off the steps.”

But those were just babies. Lacher said he’s never forgotten the cardinal rule of raising bison: Don’t ever turn your back on a bison. He knows they are wild animals that can be dangerous when they feel threatened.

Bison business

Once the Lachers became more comfortable with the animals, they began thinking about turning the operation into a business.

Lacher, who grew up on a beef and dairy farm, said his family never considered buying meat at a grocery store.

“You had a cow, you took care of it. You get a couple of hogs, and you make sausage. That’s what you did,” Lacher said.

He used that experience to come up with recipes for Lewis & Clark bison products.

Sharri Lacher said the demand for bison has grown substantially over the last 15 years. She believes it is because consumers have become educated about the health benefits.

Bison meat is higher in protein and lower in saturated fat than beef. It is also rich in nutrients such as zinc, iron and vitamin B6.

Randy said once people try bison, they usually stick with it.

“I don’t figure that we’ll be on every plate every day,” Randy said, “but a couple of times a month maybe. There is not enough bison in the country to supply people with product every day.”