Illinois family’s bison farm becomes a thriving business


MONTICELLIO, Ill. (AP) — Raising bison started as a hobby for an Illinois man, but as the herd began to grow, it became a thriving family business.

Terry Lieb bought his first bison in 2000. After his death in 2015, his sons, Jake and Josh Lieb, took over Lieb Farms, The News-Gazette reported. The farm has 45 to 55 bison at any given time.

“They’re natural as they were 200 years ago. We really don’t mess with them too much,” Jake Lieb said of the bison. “And that’s kind of the creed of the bison producer. We don’t artificially inseminate. We don’t choose the winners and losers. The big bull does the breeding. It’s a natural process.”

Meat has become more expensive due to meatpacking plant closures amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has prompted customers to go to Lieb Farms for protein.

“(The shortage) definitely got people looking elsewhere to source the meat and open their eyes up,” Jake Lieb said. “I’m sure people started googling on-farm meat sales and things like that and found our bison farm.”

Bison has brought in a lot of money to the family business, but most of the farm’s income comes from selling corn and soybeans.

“There’s times when we’re working the herd and they’re being aggressive and things aren’t going right and you’re like, ‘Man, it would be a lot easier just to convert this pasture into a cornfield,’” Jake Lieb said. “But that feeling fades away when your first calf in the spring is born and you see the circle of life.”