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Hats off to Bison: NBA holds 2024 Winter Conference in conjunction with Gold Trophy Show and Sale during NWSS

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Bison producers, industry leaders and other stakeholders from Canada, Europe, Mexico and across the U.S. gathered in Denver Jan. 17-20 for the 29th National Bison Association (NBA) 2024 Winter Convention, an annual event providing innovative information for attendees in an effort to improve the bison industry around the world.

The conference included educational sessions on herd health and vaccine development, panel discussions on bison care and marketing, delicious demonstrations on bison brisket smoking and Keynote Speaker Katie Dilse, a North Dakota producer, shared why producers are better together in her presentation titled “Strength in the Herd.”

Individuals could also attend educational seminars at the National Western Stock Show (NWSS) and hear updates from researchers funded through the Center of Excellence in Bison Studies from South Dakota State University (SDSU). 

Additionally, spectators had the opportunity to hear from regional experts on raising bison and succession planning and watch the 44th Gold Trophy Show and Sale held at the NWSS, which is held in conjunction with the annual winter conference.

The event was responsible for an outstanding turnout at the Larry Higgins Junior Judging competition, where over 50 students participated, working to earn almost $6,000 in scholarship money. 

And, 100 consigned animals were up for sale this year, drawing a full house for the live bison auction.

The convention honored Cecil Miskin, who won the Member of the Year Award and applauded Prairie Ridge Buffalo Ranch for exhibiting the Grand Champion Pen of Five Bison Heifers at NWSS. 

Bison producers gathered

NBA is a nonprofit association of producers, processors, marketers and bison enthusiasts and has more than 1,100 members from all 50 states and 10 foreign countries.

“We provide seminars, conferences, workshops, promotional materials, handbooks, research projects, foundation scholarships and publications to serve as tools to reach the goals and mission of the NBA,” said NBA Program Manager Lydia Whitman.

NBA is a dynamic and growing organization receptive to new ideas and welcomes anyone interested in preserving, promoting and producing the great American bison. 

“This community makes all of the conferences, outreach and resources possible,” said Whitman. “NBA is a community bound by the heritage of the American bison, and we take every opportunity to bring together stakeholders to celebrate the heritage of American bison, to educate and to create a sustainable future for our industry.”

This year, NBA had over 550 conference registrations, with over 600 individuals joining for banquet dinners and numerous vendors. 

“Over 20 bison producers from the U.S. and Canada brought nearly 100 top-quality bison breeding stock, representing eight different classes, to the annual auction which brought $500,000 in sales,” Whitman added. “This annual convention brings the best of the best to showcase.”

With the mission to create an environment where producers can compete to establish the value of their bison in the current marketplace, the Gold Trophy Show and Sale offers the chance to diversify a herd’s genetics from proven breeding performers in both the bull and heifer classes from across North America. 

Whitman continued, “The convention is a perfect environment to network, form partnerships and exchange knowledge with peers and industry leaders, and it’s the perfect opportunity to bring like-minded people from all around the world together to deepen connections.” 

Bison research

The Center of Excellence for Bison Studies was launched in September 2020 as a partnership between SDSU, NBA and the National Buffalo Foundation, headquartered at SDSU’s West River Research and Extension facility in Rapid City, S.D.

During the convention, SDSU Assistant Dean of West River Operations Kristi Cammack provided spectators with program updates, while SDSU Graduate Research Assistant Anlly Fresno Rueda discussed the bison rumen microbiome.

Vaccine updates were provided by Dr. Danielle Buttke, a veterinary epidemiologist and health coordinator with the National Park Service and U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service Microbiologist Bryan Kaplan, providing a learning session on Mycoplasma bovis, a common ailment in cattle identified in 2013 as an emerging pathogen in bison.

Additional research updates were presented by North Dakota State University Veterinary Anatomic Pathologist Brett Webb who discussed malignant catarrhal fever and current vaccination protocols. 

Malignant catarrhal fever is an infectious, viral disease affecting bison which can be very susceptible, and deaths are frequent in exposed animals. Stress appears to play a significant role in the development of the disease.

Future events

NBA is planning the 2024 International Bison Health Symposium to be held at SDSU in Brookings, S.D.

“This three-day conference will be held in June with international North American specialists on bison, combining commercial, conservation and Tribal interest for a robust response to bison health needs. The event is focused on veterinarians, researchers and academia, the first of its kind in 10 years,” Whitman noted.

“It’s a great place to learn on real ranches with real bison and receive some of the best bison education in the world,” she continued.

The first summer convention will kick off in May in Fredericksburg, Texas, co-hosted with the Texas Bison Association, and the host is ROAM Ranch.

Moving onto Salina, Kan. in June, NBA will co-host the second convention of the series with the Kansas Buffalo Association, where the host will be the Kansas Wildlife and Parks at the Maxwell Refuge. 

The third convention will be held in July in Keen, N.H., where NBA and the Eastern Bison Association will host the third convention at the Yankee Farmersʼ Market.

To conclude the summer convention series, NBA will co-host with the Rocky Mountain Bison Association in Limon, Colo. at the Prairie Ridge Buffalo Ranch in September.

Melissa Anderson is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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