Punta Gorda rancher raises buffalo in the Florida sun

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PUNTA GORDA, FLA. -- “This is about as close as I want to get right now,” said Keith Mann as he was standing in front of female Bison watching over her young calves. The fluffy, slightly orange colored bison calves are the future of the Three Suns Ranch.

“They are Florida bred, Florida born and they will be Florida raised and they will breed Florida calves for us in the future,” he says.

Mann has over 2,500 head of buffalo on his nearly 5,729 acre ranch, making it one of the largest bison ranches in the country.

“I am not a rancher at all. I like eating meat and that is basically how we got into this. We've got fitness, nutrition and I am a carnivore,” he said with a laugh.

The former Army Special Forces soldier moved to Florida after being station in North Carolina for nine years to raise bison because he wanted to provide a healthy source of meat for his family.

“Bison, as far as proteins goes, is top of the line. It is the most nutritious, most healthful protein you can buy.”

Mann told ABC7 he is also committed to raising his bison slowly and naturally without the practice of pumping them full of growth hormones that is common in the beef industry.

“We try to keep our hands off," Mann says. "Like I said, the more the human interferes with system, the more unintended consequences there are, the more problems we have, so we try to let these animals be animals and let the land do what it does.”

His nearly 6000 acre ranch is about two and a half miles wide and five miles deep. One of his goals is to increase the size of his heard.

“I think I can easily double my herd size here with proper management, and once we hit that sweet spot where we are producing enough animals to get to market and everything kind of balances out it will be kind of nice.”

Mann has a USDA certified processing facility right on the Three Suns Ranch property so he can provide fresh bison meat to local restaurants.

“Geckos and Smacks in Sarasota are our biggest customers, and they have been tremendous partners and they really helped us get going," He says. "I would love to be able to offer meat to other restaurants, I just don’t have the product right now.”

He says every piece of bison that is produced at the ranch is sold. Nearly a quarter of his meat sales are done right from the ranch office, which is opened on Wednesdays and Saturdays so customers can buy any cut of fresh bison meat they want.