Jamie “Malone” Moran is the latest recipient of the Bill Lenton Memorial Award from the Manitoba Bison Association.
The Russell-area bison producer, fittingly, entered the business 20 years ago by purchasing his first animal from Lenton himself. He currently keeps 60 breeding cows and 50 yearling heifers on his ranch, and he says the tough animals are uniquely suited to the challenging climate of this region.
“It’s way different than any cattle operation,” Moran said. “I think it’s more efficient. The animals are suited to the area more.”
Fellow bison producers say there’s little doubt in the industry why Moran was tapped for the honour, as he’s a perennial fixture in the business, bringing his own unique twist to things.
“Jamie is a unique person,” said Len Epp, MBA past president, during the award presentation.
“He likes to have a lot of fun. He’s always got a sense of humour to lighten the load or not make things seem so bad, but he kind of is the epitome of starting as a young producer, starting off on his own and building his herd to an award-winning bunch of animals that have performed really well. There’s never a bison event that Malone’s not at.”
Based near Russell, Man., Moran has travelled across Canada to show bison and accrue breeding stock. Over the years he’s racked up a number of awards for his work. In 2009, Moran swept the bred two-year-old category at the Canadian Bison Association Show and Sale. In 2010 his animals were judged both male and female grand champions and female reserve champion at Manitoba’s provincial show. In 2012, he took home two trophies and a grand champion female title from the Canadian national show. More recently, in 2015 he won gold with his yearling heifer at the National Bison Association Gold Trophy Show in Denver, Colorado, following it up with wins in the yearling class and a grand champion yearling at the Great Spirit Bison Show and Sale in Brandon.
Drawn to bison for their self-sufficiency, Moran credits Lenton with also teaching him the basics of bison production after selling him that first animal.
“The quality of breeding stock has tremendously changed,” he said, thinking back to those first days. “Back when I got into it, every female was a breeding animal and so people were getting into it and prices were high and certain bison producers were selling animals that technically shouldn’t have been breeding stock.”
Since then, he said, knowledge and better management practices have improved the quality of bison in Manitoba.
Moran was one of several young bison producers to be taken under Lenton’s wing.
Award recalls pioneer
The Bill Lenton Memorial Award is meant to not only honour a current producer, it also keeps the memory of an early industry pioneer alive.
Lenton began his bison herd near Miami, Man. and later expanded to a second location near Moosehorn, Man., when the herd grew past his ability to house it, eventually reaching 280 head.
He was one of the first in Manitoba to raise domestic bison commercially, vocally promoted the fledgling industry and spearheaded both the Canadian and Manitoba Bison associations.
He was called on for industry advice both in Canada and internationally, judged bison shows from Saskatchewan to Quebec and down into the United States and was instrumental in getting federal certification for bison slaughter that opened the gate for international shipping.
It was those accomplishments that drove the Manitoba Bison Association (MBA) to name an award after him following his death in 2004, and the winners have been among the industry’s top drivers of the last 13 years.
It is given to “Manitoba Bison Association members who have shown dedication and commitment as well as given of their time to promote the bison industry and the MBA,” according to the MBA.
“Nobody will ever be like Bill Lenton,” Epp said. “But when you’re given an award that’s representative of his name, the industry takes note of that and they see that and they recognize that this producer has the same goals and the same drive to make the bison what Bill wanted, to be successful, an animal that’s on a comeback. We’re producing what we consider to be one of the best red meats in the country as far as healthy and flavour. We’re not trying to compete with beef. It’s just an alternative for other consumers.”