Howdy, from the Mile High Bison Herd

Mile High Bison, Inc was formed on 2007 in Colorado by Todd A Gale. The Endless Frontier Ranch, formerly the Allis Ranch remains a part of the region's rich ranching heritage, was run by Mile High Bison, Inc.

As of 2016 the property was for sale, located at 1469 E. Noe Road, Larkspur, CO 80118, United States.
This was the Mile High Bison website.
The content below is from the site's 2009 archived pages and other outside sources.

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Mile High Bison
1469 Noe Road
Larkspur, Colorado 80118

 

2008 PRESS

Dances with bison

Monday, October 27, 2008 / By Michele Sample / Castle Rock News Press

As Jason Stephens drove over the 300 acres of open space in Greenland, he said, “I probably put the cart before the horse because I had no idea what I was going to do with the animals after I got them.”

Stephens is referring to 100 bison known as the Mile High Bison Herd that graze contently on the Endless Frontier Ranch. The ranch, which Stephens is in the process of purchasing, sits on land protected by a conservation easement that Douglas County purchased and conveyed to the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust in 1997.

“The ranch is surrounded on all sides by Douglas County Open Space, Greenland Open Space and Spruce Meadows Open Space, which are open to the public for nonmotorized multiple use,” said Cheryl Matthews, director of the county’s Open Space and Natural Resources.

“The trail users greatly enjoy seeing the bison as they are hiking, riding their bikes or horses on the open space trails,” she said.

Stephens’ experience with ranching began while he was growing up in Eastern Pennsylvania, the oldest of five boys.

“I raised cattle with my parents and when my dad came out here 20 years ago, his dream was for all of us to move to Colorado,” Stephens said.

When Stephens became an adult, he moved to Colorado on “a whim, packed a bag and ended up in Denver.” He began searching for land in the Denver and Boulder areas. Luckily for him, he drove past a “for sale” sign outside the historic Allis Ranch that’s now the Endless Frontier Ranch.

“I said to myself, ‘this is not going to be affordable,’” he said.

Two years later, Stephens and his business investment partner, Todd Gale, have a bison preservation ranch, yet still have to manage the meat end of the operation. Stephens’ parents are also partners in the ranch.

“You have to calculate what is best for the land in herd size,” Stephens said. “Since we have been here for a couple seasons now, we know exactly how much land can sustain the number of animals.”

Each season, the ranch celebrates 40 bison births in a ritual that’s “ceremonial to the buffalo,” Stephens said.

“There is this whole protection thing going on,” Stephens said. “The mom goes off by herself and the others are on perimeter watch,” a protective act, even though there are no predator animals nearby, such as mountain lions or bears.

“The males, in my observation, go off by themselves to the ridge, and are like ‘the kids are here, I’m out of here’,” Stephens said, laughing.

Stephens’ heart is with the bison and their preservation, but realistically, he knows he has to have the meat business to preserve the animal.

“I would say it breaks my heart to have to butcher these animals because you grow attached to them,” Stephens said.

The bison acquire personalities and individual behaviors that are apparent to Stephens, “even though they are wild.”

Decisions on which buffalo to keep or not isn’t always easy, but Stephens admits to having favorites. Denver, Snickers and Buffalo Bill, named after his father, are a few.

“You tend to become attached to those you know are staying,” he said. Making the bison business a little more justifiable, Stephens says, “You are using 95 percent of the animal.” The hide can be harvested at certain times of the year to produce thick leather. The buffalo’s horns, skull, bones and hooves also can be salvaged for artistic uses. Even the stomach and heart are sold for consumption.

The Mile High bison feed off the land and have their own creek running through the property so they get all the food and water they need.

“Part of our gig here is to do 100 percent grass fed, which a lot of people are interested in,” Stephens said. Because Colorado is a semiarid climate, drought conditions dwarf the regrowth of pasture grass, so if the animals are not fed a supplement, it takes a lot of grass land to feed a herd.

According to Stephens, other private bison ranchers try to manage their environment. For instance, the ranchers will put 10 females and one bull together. Stephens doesn’t. Some ranchers also try to breed for genetic purposes. Stephens doesn’t.

“We have four bulls and our whole philosophy is if we just let them live the way they have always lived, in the way of a protected environment, with a fence, they will figure it out.”

Stephens feels the fence is really just a “behavioral tool,” because if the bison really wanted to run through it, they could.

Stephens has found a niche in selling buffalo meat at Denver farmers markets from May to October. An average-sized bison equates to about 500 pounds of meat, although according to Stephens, bison ranching is not that profitable.

“If you add up all the hours you spend fixing fences, the expense of the handling facility for tagging the buffalo, the trips to market, we tend to break even,” he said. Stephens has a full-time job working in Castle Rock for Bennington Mercantile, a feed store.

At a request from his Denver farmers market customers, he is in the process of opening The Endless Frontier Ranch Store on the property.

“With the traffic we have here with the open space, it will be a great opportunity for people to pull in rather than make a special trip.”

Stephens plans to be open Nov. 15 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and feature cowboy coffee from Wyoming to wood carvings, photography, and specialty items that have “a wild west theme going on.” And of course he will sell buffalo meat.

“This is at the request of our customers,” Stephens said.

“The educational part of talking to people about what we do here, the preservation of the animal, is the most rewarding,” Stephens said. The public will be able to experience the buffalo first-hand.

“This is not the zoo — this is the real thing,” Stephens said.

“Douglas County and Mile High Bison share a mutual desire to preserve our western heritage and the legacy of the bison,” Matthews said. “We believe we have a unique opportunity to educate the public about bison and the role they played in the settlement of the West.”

Stephens’ choice for the name of his ranch is fitting.

“The Endless Frontier is perfect for the area,” Stephens said, referring to the wide open land. “I grew up in the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania, so it was a great way for me to bring that here and create a togetherness from where I was to where I am now.”

 

 


An aside: In 2011 I was in Colorado Springs attending my grandson's graduation from the Air Force Academy. We were renting a house just outside of Colorado Springs for two weeks and the owner of the house mentioned Stephens and Gale and their bison ranch. If we wanted to try bison, it was well worth the drive to the Endless Frontier Ranch where they had a trading post. It was a great visit. The younger grandchildren loved seeing the bison and looking at the bison hides, hair, robes, and horns at the trading post on the ranch. I seriously considered a bison hide as a dog bed for our country home, but my wife nixed that idea showing me the attractive dog beds she found at an e-commerce site. She wanted a dog bed that didn't look like a typical dog bed. I thought that the bison hide met that criteria. But I do admit the round dog beds that she was considering would be more appropriate. They had a good selection of designer fabrics that were more in keeping with the rest of the house's decor. In fact a number of people thought the dog beds were really just large floor pillows for people to sit on. Upon our return from Colorado Springs we told many of our friends about the Endless Frontier Ranch and the Mile High Bison herd that graze upon the lands. I think we ate more bison meat during out two weeek stay than we ever had before and since. The more I learned about Bison, the more impressed I am with the animal and the folks that are trying to bring them back in a meaningful way. Kudos to ason Stephens and Todd Gale.


 

CIRCA 2009

 

Who We Are

Mile High Bison is a Colorado based company (members of the American Grassfed Association), which produces a wide variety of bison products including bison meat, steaks, leather hides, robes, hair and horns (Used by local Artisians), and trophy mounts.  The herd of buffalo (North American bison) resides in the Larkspur area of Douglas County.  These majestic animals graze on the Endless Frontier Ranch (formerly the historic Allis Ranch Property) on Noe Road (Greenland). 

Ranch Mission

The mission of the Mile High Bison Ranch is to share the heritage and preserve the legacy of these great animals.  The Mile High Bison herd is 100% grass fed (antibiotic and hormone free) and humanely raised.  These all-natural meats are available in local restaurants and farmers markets and in our own ranch trading post

We are proud to introduce to you, Mile High Bison. This local, Colorado based company produces a wide range of bison products, including bison meat, steaks, leather hides, robes, hair & horns (used by local artisans) and trophy mounts. The herd of buffalo (aka North American bison) resides in the Larkspur area of Douglas County. These majestic animals graze on the scenic Endless Frontier Ranch (historic Allis Ranch) in beautiful Greenland, Colorado.

The ranch is mostly surrounded by Douglas County Open Space land that preserves the scenic beauty and sustains the conservation of the various natural wildlife habitats through preservation efforts, on this great, historical piece of land. The Douglas County Parks and Open Space offers a unique and scenic environment, with thousands of acres of land space open for public use.

Buffalo Quick Facts - Enjoy the flavor of the West!

  • Bison hamburgers have less cholesterol than beef hamburgers.
  • Bison are raised with no artificial growth hormones.
  • Bison eat less than cattle & Bison even eat snow!
  • Bison can run faster than a horse, jump higher than a deer and swim better than a dog.
  • Bison can adapt to any geographical environment.
  • Bison are nicknamed the “thunder of the plains”.
  • Bison are the largest North American land mammals since the end of the Ice Age.
  • It is estimated that at the peak of the North American Bison's existence, nearly 60 million Bison roamed from Mexico to Canada.
  • Bison numbers fell to a fraction of their original size, and neared extinction.
  • Today Bison are estimated to number approximately 500,000.
  • The average weight of a full grown Bison is approximately 1,500 pounds.
  • Bison have been known to use their horns to toss Elk and even other Buffalo several feet into the air.
  • A Buffalo's average lifespan is 25-35 years long.
  • Bison meat is higher in iron, protein, omega 3, lower in fat and cholesterol when compared to beef, pork, chicken, and even salmon.
  • REMEMBER: Bison are wild animals that can be very dangerous and are not pets!

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Buffalo History & the Mile High Bison

For several hundred years large herds of bison roamed the open prairies across North America. It is estimated that at the peak of the North American bison's existence, nearly sixty (60) million bison roamed from Mexico to Canada. Bison, which today are more commonly known as buffalo, were at one time so numerous that their stampedes across the prairie sounded like the roll of distant thunder. This earned the bison the nickname of 'thunder of the plains'.

And did you know these buffalo quick facts? Bison are the largest land mammals in North America since the end of the Ice Age and they even eat snow!

The plentiful bison were the mainstay of the plains-dwelling Native Americans. With the immigration of white settlers into the prairies of North America, the bison's numbers dwindled to a fraction of their original numbers, and at one point neared extinction. Today the American bison roams freely on protected government parklands and private ranches. Although their roaming area is barely a fraction of its original size, bison numbers have increased over the years.

Today bison are estimated to number approximately 500,000. They are nomadic grazers who are able to run faster than a horse, jump higher than a deer and swim better than a dog. The average weight of a full-grown animal is approximately 1,500 pounds. Bison have been known to use their horns to toss elk and even other buffalo several feet into the air. Their average life span is 25-30 years long.

Bison popularity has grown significantly over the past few years driven by the desire for people to live healthier lives. Bison meat is higher in iron, higher in protein, higher in Omega-3; lower in fat and cholesterol when compared to beef, pork, chicken and even salmon. This proven nutritional aspect combined with the taste and value make bison the culinary choice for today's consumer. The Mile High Bison herd is all natural, 100% grass fed (antibiotic & hormone free), and raised humanely.

The mission of Mile High Bison is to share the heritage and preserve the legacy of these great animals. The ranch is currently working with several public schools in Colorado offering educational field trips and the opportunity to have a "high plains bison experience". This is an opportunity to see the animals up-close and share educational information regarding the animal’s preservation and legacy on the North American continent for thousands of years.

We hope you enjoy the products we have to offer. Our buffalo meat has exceptional taste, high nutrition, and all-natural value. We are members of the American Grass Fed Association and the National Bison Association. We encourage everyone we meet to simply enjoy the exquisite flavor of the west!

Thank you for your interest in these majestic animals and giving us the opportunity to share our experiences with you. For more information on the Endless Frontier Ranch or the Mile High Bison herd, or to purchase additional products or meats, please contact the ranch OR, just give us a holler anytime at 303-258-6588, and we will be happy to help you.

 



 

2011 PRESS

Are bison the answer to sustainable meat?

Buffalo may be the answer to our lust for beef thanks to the meat’s sustainability, low fat content and reduced calories. But is this “other red meat” too good to be true?

Kelsey Blackwell | Jul 19, 2011

Challenges of the bison biz

When ranchers Jason Stephens and Todd Gale purchased their first few head of bison in 2007, they weren’t aware of the animal’s nutritional attributes. Quite simply, they fell in the love with the beast.

“To me, they’re more a symbol of what America stands for than the bald eagle,” Stephens says. “They’re so intrinsically woven into the history of our country and exemplify a classic American ideal—freedom and adventure.” 

The first few months, the men let the bison roam their 300-acre ranch near Larkspur, Colo., without a long-term plan. But after realizing their herd would eventually procreate to outgrow the acreage, Stephens and Gale concluded that “saving” the bison meant learning to process, market and sell the animals’ meat for profit.

At the time, bison was just beginning to hit its stride in the marketplace thanks, in part, to media mogul Ted Turner, who played a critical role in helping to popularize the meat by serving bison at his restaurant chain, Ted’s Montana Grill. Turner, a controversial figure in the bison world, sent prices for the animals sky high when he entered the industry in the ’90s and bought up most of the available livestock. Today, of the 225,000 bison in the United States, the National Bison Association estimates that Turner owns 50,000 of them.

Having grown up on a cattle farm in Pennsylvania, Stephens thought he had some idea of how to care for his new roaming herd. What he didn’t know was that the similarities between cattle and bison end largely at grazing and cud chewing. 

Bison vs. cattle

Cattle have over time been genetically tampered with to be “meat wagons,” says Dave Carter, executive director of the National Bison Association. The result is an animal that’s largely dependent on ranchers for survival and general health. Bison, on the other hand, are native to North America and genetically unchanged from the herds that roamed the West and Great Plains until the end of the 19th century. Because they have naturally adapted to the environment, Carter says, they’re a much heartier animal that thrives with little, if any, assistance.

Among their key differences, bison are more resistant to disease and rarely require veterinary care or antibiotics, Carter says. They easily endure extreme climates—from New Mexico summers to Montana winters—without need for artificial shelter. And during calving season, when most cattle ranchers work long hours to help their heifers give birth, “in the bison industry, we have people who’ve been doing this for over 30 years and have never pulled a calf,” Carter says.

“It’s a joke that if ranchers do start raising bison, it’s the first time they can actually take their family on vacation,” Stephens says. “It’s no longer a 40-plus-hour work week—maybe 10.”

The hands-off approach does have a drawback. Ranchers must wait longer for a return on their investment because it’s illegal to use growth hormones on bison. The companies that developed the drugs never petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for approval to use the substance on bison, Carter says.

Because of this, it takes 24 to 30 months for a bison to be ready for processing, versus 14 to 20 months for a cow. Still, the payoff is significantly more—bison meat currently has a market value of $3.17 per pound, while conventional beef is only $1.60. Plus, bison live longer. A bison female may produce calves for her entire lifespan of up to 35 years. By the time they turn 15, Carter says, most beef cows are pretty old. 

Better for us, better for the environment

Bison emit methane, but experts argue their positive environmental impact far offsets their negligible methane output. The animals roam as they eat and aren’t prone to overgrazing. They help promote a functional ecosystem by cropping native vegetation, fertilizing native grasses with manure and urine, and stirring seeds into the ground with their hooves as they move.

“They are absolutely essential to the ecology of the prairie,” says Kirk Gadzia, founder of Resource Management Services, a New Mexico-based consulting, training and monitoring organization for ranchers. While naturally occurring wildfires keep the prairie healthy by removing dead vegetation, preventing the invasion of trees and increasing the nutrients available in the soil, “we’re finding that fire alone without grazing is not enough to promote species diversity,” he says. 

Bison provide plenty of health benefits for people as well. Although the animals primarily eat grass, some ranchers finish bison on corn to increase fat content before processing, Carter says. Even so, compared to corn-fed beef, grass-fed bison finished on corn have one-third to half the fat content, less saturated fat, more unsaturated fat, fewer omega-6s and more omega-3s, according to research conducted by the University of Utah, University of Wyoming and South Dakota State University. This is due not only to bison’s low-corn diet, but also to the fact that beef cattle have been altered through the years to naturally have more marbling, even when fed grass.

“If you’re going to eat red meat several times a week, you can make a better choice than going to the supermarket and buying a corn-fed beef product,” says Wayne Askew, PhD, director of the division of nutrition at the University of Utah. “With bison, you’re still getting a tasty product, but you’re also getting more iron, protein, amino acids and B vitamins, and fewer calories and cholesterol.” 

Askew, who’s currently studying how the fat content in bison versus beef affects blood flow, found similar nutritional differences in entirely grass-fed beef and bison products.

Supply and demand

Stephens and Gale, now in their third year operating Mile High Bison, which along with meat sells bison hides, hair and horns, do most of their business at a trading post on their ranch. Without much marketing, buyers from as far away as Santa Fe, N.M., line up for their products. The men have had to stop participating in their local farmers’ market because they just don’t have the supply to meet demand.

To grow their herd (which currently stands at 90 animals) the ranchers would need to keep more heifers so the animals could reproduce. Although the duo has considered doing this, Stephens asks, “Why would you want to process fewer animals when the market for the meat is at an all-time high?” Additionally, most ranchers recognize that the small scale of bison ranching is what makes the industry sustainable.

Though there aren’t federal laws that govern the production methods of bison, factory farming is not an effective way to raise the animals, Carter says. It’s generally accepted by bison ranchers that the animals do best when family units are minimally disturbed and each animal is given at least 400 square feet to roam. The prohibition of growth hormones also keeps ranchers from factory farming. Hormones and factory principles are based on getting the animal from birth to slaughter as quickly as possible. Bison ranchers don’t agree with these methods—otherwise, they would be ranching beef, Carter says. 

But as demand for bison continues to grow, the question on most ranchers’ minds is “how can we keep bison from becoming the next beef?”

On average, Americans eat only a 10th of a pound of bison per year, Carter says. Even if the business tripled, that would only be a third of a pound per year, which is a far cry from the nearly 65 pounds of beef Americans consume. Moving bison toward beef production levels and consumption would require altering the animals to reproduce quicker, grow faster and pack on more pounds per carcass. “At that point, bison really aren’t bison anymore,” Carter says.

“What’s driving demand is that we are something unique,” he adds. “We would rather continue to market our products to consumers who appreciate the value of delicious, nutritious meat produced from animals humanely raised in a sustainable manner, than to market large quantities of cheap bison meat.”

Introduce your customers to bison meat

Larkspur, Colo.-based bison ranchers Jason Stephens and Todd Gale call natural products stores their bread and butter in the retail sector. “We’re starting to see bison products more frequently in stores, I think in large part because these retailers have done such a good job with sharing information,” Stephens says. Pique your customers’ interest in bison meat by using signage to share the following facts.

Beef versus bison: What’s the  difference in flavor?

Bison meat picks up the flavor of whatever the animal eats. Meat that’s processed in the spring, after the bison have eaten dormant grasses and hay during the winter, tastes different than meat processed in the fall, following a diet of spring grasses, Stephens says. Most ranchers describe bison’s flavor as similar to beef but slightly sweeter, with no wild-game taste.

Why does bison cost more?

In part, because there’s less bison meat available, says Dave Carter, executive director of the National Bison Association. Last year, roughly 54,000 bison were processed for consumption in the U.S. The cattle industry processes 125,000 animals daily.

How do you cook bison?

Because bison meat is significantly leaner than beef (2.42 grams of fat compared to 8.09 grams of fat per 3-ounce serving), it needs to be cooked longer and at a lower temperature. The National Bison Association recommends cooking the meat rare to medium.

 

MHBison.com