What It’s Like Wrangling Bison

A day in the life of Peter Cook at Cook’s Bison Ranch in Wolcottville
Peter Cook
The 500-head herd on Cook’s Bison Ranch’s northeast-Indiana spread feeds on hay Peter Cook raises himself—each animal scarfs down 10 to 20 pounds daily. 

Days making hay are real busy.

6:30 a.m.  After checking the weather and eating breakfast, I see how the cows and calves are. (One time an animal got its foot stuck in a knothole in a tree. We used a saw to cut off the knot.) Then we feed them and see if they need hay. We have about 175 bulls and heifers, 100 to 150 cows just for breeding.

9 a.m.  Mowed hay has to be raked to help it dry thoroughly, but you don’t want it too wet or too dry. Moisture translates to actual pounds on your animal. The longer it sits in the sun, the more it loses protein. I hook up the rake to the tractor, grease the rake, fill up the tractor with fuel, and start raking.

1:30 p.m.  At the farm where we have tours, I’ll have a concession-stand burger for lunch, or my wife, Erica, will make me something. We’ll have between 4,000 and 5,000 visitors here from May to October.

3:30 p.m.  After doing some odd jobs and checking the hay again, I’ll start baling. I listen to talk radio, country, or WBCL in the tractor. When I’m baling a field and it looks like I’m going to get more bales than I expected, that makes me happy. I like the red-tailed hawks and hearing their screech, seeing them hunting mice.

6:30 p.m.  I’ll break, and my wife will bring out some supper. I use a loader tractor to pick up the bales and haul them back to the barn to unload. It’s dark by then.

10 p.m.  Before bed, I check on the kids and make sure they’re good. Chat with my wife. That’s probably the most important thing I do all day.


This article appeared in the August 2015 issue.