By Corky Deaver
There are some outstanding animals in the Beefalo breed but no animal has provided the positive genetic influence that Bigfoot has contributed.
Bigfoot was bred and raised by Jerry Page, in Sumter, SC. Mr. Page had two cattle operations: a registered Holstein dairy and a beef herd on a different farm. He had become interested in Beefalo in the early years and purchased a few ½ and ¾ Beefalo females and some Bassalo semen to use on some of his dairy heifers. His beef and dairy operations had been run for several years by a farm manager employed after this person had graduated from school. The early Beefalo breeding program was (as told to me) al A.I. No animals were registered and records were hand-written paper notes and written on the wall of the dairy milk storage room.
In 1980 Mr. Page purchased an interest in Cimmaron, a ¾ Bison bull, from Will Dean of Cleveland, GA. Cimmaron was turned out on the beef farm to breed. Prior to the purchase of Cimmaron, Mr. Page had received a large order of semen from Mr. Jim Burnett of Montana, which included 003, 026, 028, 031, 032, and other numbered bulls I do not remember.
When Cimmaron arrived a group of ½ Beefalo cows were at the dairy to be A.I. bred and were then moved to the beef farm to run with Cimmaron. About two or three weeks after his arrival Cimmaron broke a leg and was killed.
In September 1984, Mr. Page called Will Dean and told him he was in very bad health, had sold his dairy animals, and was selling his beef animals. Mr. Page had over 40 bulls of ages one to three years old. He thought two of the bulls that were born in 1981 were from Cimmaron. These bulls were Bigfoot and Wildcard. Bigfoot was so named because an injury and infection as a calf had left him with a permanently enlarged right front leg.
I purchased Bigfoot and the cow they told me was his dam; she was sired by HB-125. Blood from the cow and Bigfoot was sent to the Stormont Bloodtype laboratory in California for parent verification. The cow verified to HB-125. Bigfoot verified to the cow but was denied to Cimmaron. I had not been involved in bloodtyping at that time and did not understand how to read the reports. I called Dr. Suzuki at Stormont and asked her to teach me how to read the bloodtyping results.
She explained why Cimmaron did not qualify as sire to Bigfoot. I then told her that Jim Burnett’s 031 semen had been used to A.I during the time that Bigfoot’s dam was bred. She asked me to hold a minute and when she came back to the phone Dr. Suzuki said Bigfoot qualified as a Tony II progeny. Bigfoot was one of the first animals to have his Beefalo dam bloodtyped and then to qualify himself to both his sire and dam for a complete parentage verification.
Bigfoot’s request for Registration was submitted September 17, 1984 and went to the Chairman of Registration Review. During the winter of 1984-85 Bigfoot’s bloodtype was checked against most of the records from WBA, IBBR, and ABA in an effort to locate any other animal that could possibly qualify as his sire. The registration for Bigfoot was released to me in April 1985, it was dated December 1984.
I used Bigfoot one full breeding season (1985) and took him to Select Sires in Knoxville, TN for semen collection. They kept him a month and told me his semen was not usable due to excessive deformed sperm. I was disappointed and called Mr. Jim Burnett for his advice. He told me that, in his experience, it was not unusual for a Bison Hybred of his percentage or higher to produce deformed sperm when exposed to strangers prior to or at collection. He suggested I collect him on the farm and that no one but me should touch the bull during collection. I followed his advice and over 100 straws of high-quality semen were packaged on the first collection.
The spring of 1986 found me ill and in the middle of a severe dry spell. Janet and I made the decision to sell our ancestry bulls (Bigfoot, Badlands Bill, and Junior) and their percentage females and keep the fullblood calves. Bigfoot and his herd of ¾ Beefalo cows sold to Greg Boyer in Woodbury, TN in the summer of 1986. In the meantime I had collected several hundred straws of semen.
Bigfoot was injured during the winter of 1986-87 and died. Boyer later sold his semen to several breeders. Bigfoot was used a lot in embryo transfer and produced enough progeny to advertise and prove his genetic superiority.
I am still using some Bigfoot semen each year and keep most of the females for my herd. I now have some of his great grandchildren who continue to exhibit his genetic traits. Some of those traits are: frame correctness, a very strong muscle pattern, outstanding growth, vigorous calves at birth, very correct udders on females, high milk production, and long life. He also passes on the carcass traits of high dressing percentage, and the internal organs that demonstrate Bison influence.
Bigfoot’s progeny have set new standard’s in the show ring and his bloodlines have found their way into a large percentage of Beefalo herds throughout the breed. Although Bigfoot’s genetics have found prominence in the show ring this is not his dominant strength, Bigfoot has always produced working animals who perform on pasture and pass this genetic influence to the next generation. His legacy lives.
Reprinted with author’s permission