Potawatomi Farm uses new addition of herd to breed pure bison

LAONA, Wis. (WJFW) - It’s not every day that you come across a bison farm in the Northwoods of Wisconsin - but there are a few, including the Forest County Potawatomi Farm outside Laona. They have recently received a large addition to their herd.

40 new bison are brought into herd, bringing total count to 66

After the Potawatomi farm opened in 2017, they started their herd of 26 bison the following year. Now, a recent grant is allowing them to feed their tribe with the same purebred bison they once ate.

“Yellowstone bulls I mean, that’s like the Holy Grail of bison," said farm manager Dave Cronauer.

40 bison now call Forest County’s Potawatomi Farm home, thanks to the Intertribal Buffalo Council.

“We’re bringing back something that’s been a cultural significant animal to Native Americans forever," said Cronauer.

The program brings the animals to tribal lands when national parks and grasslands have a surplus.

“We actually got to select what animals we wanted from what herds and so we went through all of the genetic makeup, genetic testing of all the animals to figure out what herds we wanted them from," said Cronauer.

They settled on 38 bison from Wind Cave National Park and 2 Yellowstone Bison.

“Yellowstone genetics are very important because they’re genetically pure," said Cronauer.

“All the bison in North America basically have some cattle integration, so they at some point in time they’ve been bred to cattle., so we’re trying to get them back to the way they should be, get the cattle integration out of them," said Cronauer. 

Tribal member Joe Shepard cares for the growing herd.

“I’m one of the only ones that will go in the pens with them, usually work them up. I’m pretty comfortable with them and they seem to be pretty comfortable with me," said Shepard.

He says it took a while for the herd to accept him.

“They’re used to me, now when we got those bulls, I didn’t go in right away, I would just show my face and let them know that I’m here and I’m going to take care of them," said Shepard.

For the tribe, the grass-fed giants represent culture and food security.

“We’re trying to bring that back; we’re bringing a healthy meat to the community which is one of our goals for the farm is to get people healthy through food," said Cronauer.

Submit story ideas to “mweaver@wjfw.com”


Matt Weaver started his TV career when joining WJFW in January 2022. He attended St. Norbert College where he covered sports and co-hosted sports talk. When not thinking about sports, he is usually outside staying active