Fourth Generation Colorado Farmer Transitions To Bison Ranching
Jim Beauprez, a fourth generation Coloradoan who grew up on a dairy farm, and wife Julie operate Eagle’s Wing Ranch, Coalmont, Colo. The young couple is assisted by Jim’s parents, Bob and Claudia Beauprez. Bob is a former U.S. congressman for District 7 in Colorado and ran for governor in 2008 and again in 2014.
Dad first started talking to me about his interest in bison when we were still on the family dairy farm in Lafayette, Colo.,” said Jim. “I was in my early teens, but I remember telling Dad that if we ever got tired of milking cows, I would gladly run a bison ranch.”
Later, the family made the decision to sell the dairy farm. “We all went our separate ways for a few years until one day in 2007, Mom came across a ranch for sale in the North Park area of Colorado,” said Jim. “It only took one visit to ﬁgure out we found our home for the bison dream.”
Jim and Julie live on the ranch as full-time managers. Bob and Claudia live in Lafayette, Colo., not far from where the family’s former dairy farm was located. Claudia does all the ranch’s book-keeping as well as the shipping for the bison retail meat operation. Bob comes to the ranch in the summers to run the baler, x fences, work ditches and do whatever else the busy season bring.
Eagle’s Wing Ranch is a cow/calf operation, raising animals for a grass-fed, retail bison meat operation, Eagle’s Wing Natural Bison. They run roughly 150 head of breeding bison, with the numbers swelling to well over 300 total. Animals are harvested in the fall of their second year. Any animals not directly marketed are ﬁnished and sold to Rocky Mountain Natural Meats.
Thee total ranch acreage is 1,400, with 700 acres dedicated to pasture and hay meadows. In addition to raising bison, the Beauprez’ also produce 1,400 tons of mountain Timothy grass hay during the summer for winter bison feed and retail hay sales. Other than a handful of chickens, a bulldog and three horses, which Jim refers to as hay burners,” bison are the only livestock.
Although bison ranching is a new venture for this family, Jim is the fourth generation to be involved in agriculture. Prior to dairy farming, previous Beauprez generations have raised everything from Belgian horses, to Red Herefords, to registered black and white Holsteins. As a dairy farmer, Bob was one of the initial pioneers and proponents of artiﬁcial insemination and embryo transfer.“
The Beauprez’ are only the second family to farm and ranch at Eagle’s Wing Ranch,” said Jim. “Thee previous ownership can be traced through the same family all the way back to the U.S. Homestead Act of 1862.”
The North Park location provides the operation with high quality native grasses. Eagle’s Wing Ranch bison graze ﬂood irrigated meadows and thrive in the cool mountain air. Mild summer days and cool evenings are the perfect recipe for a high protein Timothy grass stem that results in a healthy, natural weight gain for the harvest animals,” said Jim. This same hay is harvested and fed during the winter. At 8,700 feet above sea level, we are grateful that we have the means to harvest our own hay crop. The harsh winters and minimal county road access would make it diﬃcult to get regular feed deliveries!
”Retail grass-fed bison meat is marketed and sold online at www.eagleswingnaturalbison.com. Customers can order individual cuts as well as reserve quarters, sides or a whole carcass. In addition, Jim & Julie own and operate a bison jerky business that is also available online at www.beauﬀalojerky.com.
As a young producer, Jim observes that bison will nd a way” and advises newcomers to respect the intelligence, strength and resilience of the animal. With bison it’s not what you do with your fence to keep them happy, but rather what you do within the fence that keeps them home,” said Jim. “Our perimeter and pasture fences all have an electric wire on the top, typically at 52 inches. It lays out a ‘stop’ point for them but if they are hungry or thirsty you can bet there’s not a fence that will keep them in.”
However, once their basic needs of feed, water and companionship are met, he said bison are easy to care for. Bison thrive on neglect, so don’t feel like you have to be a part of their daily lives. This is a diﬃcult concept to embrace, especially if you come from a cattle background. Even during calving season, don’t be afraid to keep your distance while still keeping an eye on their behavior.”
The young rancher also advises those considering bison raising do their research. Join the NBA and get a list of bison producers in your area. Tour as many bison ranches as you can so you know what you are getting into. Take a good look at other ranches’ perimeter and pasture fencing, but most importantly their working facility, including squeeze chute, tub, alleys, and so on.”
Jim is grateful for the great advice he got early on that he still applies at Eagle’s Wing Ranch today. In addition, he advises: “Expect to make changes to your original game plan because regardless of how many head you start out with, the bison will teach you how to raise them, not the other way around. Bison have the agility of a deer, the speed of a quarter horse and the dexterity of a bull snake. Study and learn from their behavior!”
A member since purchasing Eagle’s Wing Ranch in 2007, Jim said he always enjoys attending the NBA Winter Conference, seminars and the Gold Trophy Show & Sale, in which he has exhibited several years, even winning Rookie of the Year designation in 2011.(All of these resources are) very informative, and it is always nice to catch up with familiar faces,” said Jim. Also, we see the quarterly Bison World as a great member benefit; it is read cover to cover when it comes out.”
This article was published in "Bison World" Magazine January/February/March 2016 edition. We have shared it with you, with permission from Jim Beaupreaz, manager of the Eagles Wing Ranch. What a great agriculture piece to share about North Park. Thank you for your kindness and generosity by sharing your story with us here. LINK TO ORIGINAL ARTICLE