First generation rancher thrives raising bison

Doing custom work for a bison producer was all it took to convince
this grain farmer from Manitoba to switch career paths 25 years ago

Jamie Moran started his agricultural career in grain farming, but it didn’t last. Not after he did custom work for a bison rancher and found his calling.

“There was just something about them,” he said. “I watched this other guy for 10 years. I custom worked with them for years and years and I just kind of liked it.”

In 1996, Moran started what is now known as Shale Creek Bison Ranch just west of Russell, Man. He began with 15 head and slowly grew to 60 exclusive cow-calf pairs.

“About 80 percent of my bison herd has been bought from show and sales,” Moran said. “The majority have been grand champion males or females.”

According to Moran, bison are easier to raise than cattle, one of the things that initially pulled him toward them.

“I think they’re a hardier animal,” Moran said. “They can survive better in winters.”

Moran won the Bill Lenton Memorial Award in 2017 through the Manitoba Bison Association. He called it a highlight of his career.

“I was fortunate to be nominated for it and I was pretty honoured and I think it’s one of the most successful things that has happened to me,” Moran said.

He usually works by himself or with his wife, Debbie Moran, and his two daughters, Tara and Danielle Moran. He said he enjoys working with his family.

Danielle said she is proud of how she grew up.

“It was awesome being able to grow up first of all in an outdoor space that was so big,” Danielle said. “Me and Tara had all the room in the world to run around. And then especially with the animals, like a bison farm isn’t something you typically grow up on. Whenever I tell people that, they’re always a little shocked it wasn’t just a cow farm.”

As children, Danielle and her sister spent most of their time with their dad in the tractor when they fed the bison, but as they grew up they gained more responsibility.

“That was pretty fun, and not an experience a lot of kids get,” she said.

Danielle said she didn’t realize how much work went into the ranch growing up. Now, she understands how much devotion her father has put into it.

“Just having respect for Dad for all the stuff he did all day long. You don’t really realize it when you’re a kid.”

Her time spent on the ranch and her mother’s love of horses inspired Danielle to begin rodeo. Originally starting in horse shows, she saw barrel racing and pole bending and got into it in high school.

“My need for speed was being taken care of.”

Although both his daughters currently live away from the ranch, Jamie has hope that the ranch won’t end after one generation.

“I’m hoping that in the long run that someone wants to come back and take over this operation.”

For now, he said he wants to continue to produce top quality products and make his process even more efficient.

“I want to try to raise or buy the top quality females and top quality bulls. I guess my goal is to try and raise these animals as efficiently as I can.

“It’s a hard industry to perhaps get into, but I think it’s a worthwhile industry.”