WITH 40 adults in his herd and the birth of 11 new calves last month, Steve Tolmie's dream of breeding North American bison to produce gourmet meat cuts to the restaurant industry is coming to fruition.
Under the business name Sandy Valley Bison, the businessman and breeder also envisaged making and selling bison jerky from his stock, based on his Minore Road property, Dubbo.
Up to 2500 packets can be generated from a full bison weighing anywhere from 650 to 1000 kilograms.
Mr Tolmie said he initially wanted to breed something unusual and chose the bison because of its extremely low numbers in Australia.
Since he began buying and breeding the animals a few years ago, a ban was placed on importing bison because of foot and mouth disease in North America.
Mr Tolmie originally purchased three bison from Taronga Western Plains Zoo and the remaining five from a breeder in Victoria.
With 22 females who can produce up to 25 calves each in their lifetime, and with fewer than 500 animals in the country, the breeder had secured his niche market.
"I didn't want to get involved with emu and deer, things other people were into and I wanted a select market, so I considered aiming at the restaurant industry," he said.
"I also needed to value-add so I have been leasing them out to the horse industry for camp drafting and for training cutting horses."
"There's been a great market for that, a lot of people looking for them for that purpose."
Mr Tolmie said bison would outwork ten horses and the animals treat the work as a game.
"Where cows get bored and stale and won't do the job after an hour and a half, six bison will do the work of 30 horses and they will look for the error the horses make," he said.
"Their memories are that good and they know what the horses are doing."
As far as selling to the restaurant industry, Mr Tolmie said he would supply only one restaurant in each regional city with his bison meat.
In an al-la-carte restaurant a 350 gram steak will sell for around $65.
"Bison is a very sweet meat and the molecular structure of it is half that of beef and therefore very low in fat," he said.
"It can only be cooked medium-rare."
Keeping around 60 bison in his herd ensured an ideal number to sustain his business.
"It's getting closer to that now and I am at the point where I can supply breeding stock to others who want to break into the industry too," he said.