Beefalo ready for ‘Lean Times’

By Dallas Charton
Farm and Dairy March 14, 1996

The message is consistent throughout the beef industry: Leaner meat is what the diet- and fat-conscious public wants.

Producers of one kind of meat believe they already have the desirable traits of low fat and good taste that beef consumers want.

Beefalo, a cross between buffalo and any o of the more popular beef cattle breeds, is called the Heart Meat of America by the American Beefalo Association. The reason is simple: The group claims Beefalo meat has less cholesterol and fewer calories than even the leanest beef, and virtually the same calories as chicken with much less cholesterol.

Charles W. Bandy of Salem sells breeding services and meat from his Beefalo herd. From his standpoint as a producer, the lower fat content is only part of the positive about Beefalo.

Kim Curfman stands at the halter of “Waggy” a Beefalo herd sire owned by Columbiana County cattleman Charles Bandy. Beefalo are typically three-eighths buffalo and five-eighths beef bovine.

“Beefalo have some buffalo traits and some bovine traits, and it really works out well for the producer,” the Columbiana County cattleman said. “Beefalo are grazers. We feed them no grain at all. Our whole 100-acre farm is in hay and pasture.”

Beefalo tends to hold its price both at the wholesale-retail level and the consumer level, Bandy said. It is priced comparatively to premium beef prices. With herd sell-offs taking place because of the high feed grain prices, beef is now at bargain prices.

“We make our price,” Bandy said. “It doesn’t fluctuate much. It is about what you would pay for premium beef.”

Marketing all of the Beefalo they grow is not a problem for Bandy and his wife, Gloria, and other Beefalo producers. The Bandy’s Beefalo is a menu item at the Stage Coach Inn in nearby North Georgetown. They would like to supply a grocery store with the meat, but their supply is not yet sufficient for that. As is the case with most Beefalo producers, their herd is still small.

Their herd is growing, however. They have had seven new calves in the last three weeks. Calving ability is another plus for the Beefalo breed.

“It is an easy calving animal,” Bandy said. “It has a fairly small calf, with a small head. It weighs around 60-70 pounds at birth. But a trait it carries from the buffalo is that it gets up right away. It will get up and run around, nursing but also eating hay and drinking water at one day.”

They will buy back calves at premium prices from producers such as Nelson and Becky Burnell of Canal Fulton after providing their bulls for stud services. Space constraints require them to buy the Beefalo back after seven months at such grow-out facilities. They also work with David and Rita Nuter of Salem improving herds. Another aspect of the Beefalo that makes it easier to grow is its adaptability to weather extremes, Bandy said. Traits inherited from the buffalo include hair that is five times thicker than the bovine and sweat glands, that allow it to cool itself in hot weather.

“The buffalo used to roam from Florida to Canada, so it is highly adaptable to the weather,” he said.

Beefalo is tagged, registered, and certified. Meat inspectors have to certify it as Beefalo before it can be labeled that way. It is generally three-eighths buffalo and five-eighths bovine. That cross has given Beefalo meat that is low in fat, with little or no marbling, but tender, unlike the grainy texture sometimes found in wild animal meat, Bandy said.

The animal has the bovine temperament, Bandy said. “You can walk up to it in the pasture and pet it.” he explained. While complimentary of buffalo meat, he said he looked for a breed of animal he could handle, which might not be the case with the large, strong buffalo.
Charles and Gloria Bandy raise and market Beefalo bef from their farm, Hidden Pleasures Farm, in western Columbiana County.

He said breeding Beefalo with dairy breeds is not recommended, as it would be likely to increase the size of the animal and carry over other dairy characteristics that are undesirable for a beef animal. Another advantage of Beefalo is that it lives longer.

The Beefalo grows to about 900 to 1,000 pounds, depending on what beef breed it is mixed with. The best time to butcher, he said, is when the animal is under 2, at about 18-20 months.

One situation Bandy hopes to change is that no Beefalo has been shown at the Ohio Beef Expo, and it is not shown at fairs. In the future, he hopes to see it begin fair competition with some open class entries.

Reprinted with author’s permission