State animal finds a home on the range near Goessel

Vernon Base and his family have had bison at Coon Creek Buffalo since 1980 or 1981.by Wendy Nugent

The Free Press

?Oh give me a home

Where the buffalo roam

Where the deer and the antelope play.

Where seldom is heard a discouraging word,

And the skies are not cloudy all day.?

Kansas will celebrate its 155th birthday Jan. 29. Kansas Day serves as a time to reflect on what makes Kansas, Kan?sas: sunflowers, tornadoes, the ?Home on the Range? song, wide-open spaces, American Indians and buffalo.

While many traces of Kansas? frontier past have disappeared, there?s still one place nearby where the buffalo do roam.

Coon Creek Buffalo ranch has a rural Newton address but sits near Goessel in Marion County. The ranch has been operating since 1980 by Vernon and Angela Base and features more than a dozen buffalo, or bison.

?I count 16 out there,? said Vernon Base, who co-owns the operation with wife Angela.

The biggest animal is a 4-year-old, 1,400- to 1,500-pound bull.

?We bought him as a herd sire,? Base said.

Base said if the bull was processed, he?d fill two 220-cubic-foot freezers.

The Bases process their meat through Yoder Meats, and the animals are slaughtered elsewhere.

?We take them to Yoder Meats so they can package them,? Base said, standing inside his buffalo corral on a cold, overcast winter day.

Coon Creek Buffalo is licensed for a state label, and they sell buffalo meat, snack sticks, steaks, burger meat, roasts and summer sausage.

?Just your normal cuts,? Base said.

The public can purchase meat through the Bases or at Keith?s Foods in Goessel. In addition, a cafe, which will reopen in Goessel, will have buffalo burgers on the menu. This cafe is under new management, Base said. Coon Creek Buffalo sells labeled packaged wholesale and retail meat, and they sold calves in December.Buffalo at Coon Creek Ranch make a run for it on Friday, Jan. 22.

Usually, the ranch has at least 20 head, and they?ve had up to 45 buffalo. The buffalo, which seem a bit skittish around humans, are penned up for the winter. Sometimes, people need a place to put their buffalo before it?s processed, so they do it at the ranch.

?The summer heat is harder on them than this cold,? Base said.

The buffalo corral was built 10 to 12 years ago, Base said.

?I?m a welder by trade, so once I start welding, I just go with it,? he said.

In fact, they?re working on having a family barbecue area for humans near the corral, and Base said they also have plans to expand with another holding area.

?That way, we have more room to do more sorting and have some more animals in there,? he said.

The cows aren?t spring chickens.

?Most of our cows are probably 10 to 12 years old,? Base said, although at least two of them are 2-year-old yearlings.

The animals don?t have names.

?We used to name ?em all,? Base said, but now they don?t, although they do name their Watusi cattle, which they also raise, because they?re registered. Watusi are native to Africa.

Base said they do a lot of traveling with the cows and buffalo. Three of their cows came from Taos, N.M., and one is from Texas. Base said if they had more land, they?d have more animals. Right now, they have 100 to 110 acres for the Watusi and buffalo.

?In between working and the buffalo and the Watusi and working on the new house, we keep busy,? Base said.

Base has a day job as a lead person in the tooling department at Excel Indus?tries in Hesston, and Angela is a florist by trade.

The Bases started their operation with regular cattle, and then they bought one heifer buffalo. They sold all their regular cattle and started with the buffalo.

?I like animals,? Base said about why they have the ranch. I like the other breeders. We?re just a specialized group.?

So long as they have bison, the Bases will not go hungry.

?We like the bison,? Base said. ?That?s the biggest (selling) point for us. We haven?t bought meat for years.?

Buffalo meat is low in fat, and the last one tested was 98 percent fat free, Base said.

?They?re very high in Vitamin B12 and Omega 3s,? he said.

Some of their customers are people who are allergic to beef but can eat bison while others are heart patients.

?The bison?they get along well with that,? Base said.

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