Bison Calculations

Students estimate, calculate, and measure feed requirements for bison.


The Texas State Bison Herd is no longer free to roam the vast prairies as they once did. Currently, thirty-three animals live within a 330 acre pen system in Caprock Canyons State Park.
These animals must be fed, and water must be provided. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department staff insure the well-being of the Texas State Bison Herd.
The bison graze the area within the pens. In addition to grazing, bison are fed nutritious cubes and hay to supplement their diet. The amount of food given the herd depends upon factors such as weather and the amount of grass available for grazing.



  1. Discuss with the students that when wild animals are captured, it is a huge responsibility to make sure the animals are properly cared for and have the necessities to survive.
  2. Have the students discover how much it takes to feed and water a bison. Show the five gallon bucket, and explain that a bison drinks that much water in a day. Have students estimate the number of glasses of water it would take to fill it. Allow students to then fill the bucket. How many glasses did it take? Compare this to a human's daily intake of water.
  3. In the wild, bison eat grass, forbs (weeds), and browse (woody plants). They need about 24 pounds of dry matter a day, when grazing in the wild. Within the pens, the bison receive three pounds of nutritious cubes every other day. Have the students weigh out three pounds of dog food on a scale in a large paper sack. How much more food do the bison need a day? Have the students each pour a cup of dog food in the sack until it reaches 25 pounds. Remind students 25 pounds of grass weighs the same, but takes up more room. As an example, fill a paper bag with dry plant material and weigh it.


  1. Have students measure their height. The average height of a bison is six feet. How much taller is a bison?
  2. Have students weigh themselves on a scale. An average bison weighs about 1,500 pounds. How much more does a bison weigh? If you add the weights of each child in the class together, is that more or less than a bison?


  1. Were the students able to solve the calculations pertaining to bison?
  2. Have students plan and calculate what they would need to care for a small herd of five bison for a day.

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