Animal Welfare Research Needs for Bison

The following is a list of research priorities gaps identified during the bison Code development processClick here to visit the Bison Code web page for the Scientific Committee report and to view the full Code.

List compiled: November 2017

Parasite impact and management*

  • Cycles of infection involving animal calving, soil contamination and seasonal shedding 
  • Efficacy of cattle anti-parasiticals in bison
  • Ectoparasites, lice, keds, Oestridae and mange mites
  • Helminth parasites including liver flukes (Fascioloides and Fasciola), gastrointestinal nematodes of the family Trichostrongylidae, pulmonary lungworms of the genus Dictyocaulus and extra-pulmonary lungworms of the family Protostrongylidae

Special pathogens of bison* 

  • Malignant catarrhal fever (MCF), caused by OvHV-2, found to have occurred in ranch bison herds separated by significant distances from feedlot lambs
  • Recognized viral agents including adenovirus, bluetongue, epizootic hemorrhagic disease, bovine virus diarrhea, rotavirus and coronavirus


  • Forage choices of bison on domestic and unimproved pasture  

Bison behaviour and handling* 

  • Bison behaving in commercial ranches where social groups, feeding, management and environment differ from that in the wild
  • Basic bison behaviour and body language that could lead to lower stress during routine handling, improved round-up methods, and enhanced facility designs 
  • Spacing requirements between individuals and family groups given that free roaming bison have a very intact social structure with definite spacing requirements (which may differ among sexes and ages throughout the year) 
  • Reducing stress in bison during routine handling that will benefit the welfare of bison on farms (particularly as they often react differently to handling procedures than cattle)  
  • Levels of distress and subsequent welfare implications caused by restraint

Pain mitigation* 

  • Mitigating pain associated with dehorning, branding and semen collection 
  • Identifying where one method of castration would be preferable over others (despite the rarity of the practice)   
  • Testing new pharmaceutical products and commensurate methods of administration 


  • Bison responses to various conditions in transport (i.e., duration, feed, water)

Segregated feeding 

  • Appropriate age at weaning

Aggression management

  • Bison behaviour in confinement with regard to handling (e.g., calming technologies for handling, the practice of acclimatizing to handling, etc.) 

Space allowance

  • Space requirements for overwinter feeding and calving areas

Thermal impacts on nutritional needs 

  • Impact of high ambient temperatures on feed intake
  • Food refusal and “winter efficiency” theses   


  • Nutritional inputs related to forage finishing, acidosis, and grain overload


  • Lameness at pasture where treatment is difficult or impossible (epidemiological or survey type data)


  • Non-invasive, visible and/or easily readable methods of identification and ear tag design placement 

Bison horn physiology and related behaviour  

  • Anatomy of bison horns and the differences between bison and cattle horns
  • Risks associated with mixing horned and dehorned cow herds

Bison production and greenhouse gas emissions

  • Relationship between the welfare benefits to extensively raised bison versus, or in relation to, greenhouse gas emissions 

*Denotes areas of primary interest