Do you want to start a bison ranch? If YES, here is a 20-step guide on how to open a bison farming business with no money or experience. A bison is also known as an American buffalo; it was nicknamed a bison so as to differentiate it from an African buffalo. Over the years, there has been a rise in the demand for buffalo meat since it was found to contain protein in large quantity and also low cholesterol. The bison industry is less competitive than other livestock industries.
Hence, that is one reason why anybody can key into the market and make money before it becomes very competitive in the coming years. This is one business that has recorded a high level of profitability. This is especially for those who know how to pull things off. Please note that if you intend to start this type of business, it is advisable to first look at the existing laws and zonal regulations in the country or state you reside in to know what is expected of you.
You also need to pay a visit to the regulatory bodies in your country to get all the information you need before you can legally open your Bison ranch in your city. You can start your Bison ranch business from a small town in the United States and if you are good at what you do when it comes to making farming Bison, it won’t be too long before your brand becomes a nationally recognized brand.
20 Steps to Starting a Bison Ranch Business
Table of Content
- Conduct Market Research and Feasibility Studies
- Decide Which Niche to Concentrate On
- Know Your Major Competitors in the Industry
- Decide Whether to Buy a Franchise or Start from Scratch
- Discuss With an Agent to Know the Best Insurance Policies for You
- Protect your Intellectual Property With Trademark, Copyrights, Patents
- Get the Necessary Professional Certification
- Get the Necessary Legal Documents You Need to Operate
- Raise the Needed Startup Capital
- Choose a Suitable Location for your Business
- Hire Employees for your Technical and Manpower Needs
- Write a Marketing Plan Packed with ideas & Strategies
- Work Out a Reasonable Pricing for your Services & Products
- Develop Iron-clad Competitive Strategies to Help You Win
- Brainstorm Possible Ways to Retain Clients & Customers
- Develop Strategies to Boost Brand Awareness and Create a Corporate Identity
Understand the Industry
Bison farming business is part of the livestock farming industry in the United States of America and Bison are found in publicly and privately held herds. Bison are increasingly raised for meat, hide, wool, and dairy products. The majority of American bison in the world are raised for human consumption or fur clothing.
Bison meat is generally considered to taste very similar to beef, but is lower in fat and cholesterol, yet higher in protein than beef, which has led to the development of beefalo, a fertile hybrid of bison and domestic cattle. Available statistics show that in 2005, about 35,000 bison were processed for meat in the U.S., with the National Bison Association and USDA providing a “Certified American Buffalo” program with birth-to-consumer tracking of bison via RFID ear tags.
A market even exists for kosher bison meat; these bison are slaughtered at one of the few kosher mammal slaughterhouses in the U.S., and the meat is then distributed nationwide. One thing is certain about Bison farming, if you are able to conduct your market research and feasibility studies, you are more likely not going to struggle to sell your milk, flesh, fur and hide because there are loads of milk production plants, leather processing plants and high-end restaurants out there to patronize you.
Some of the factors that encourage entrepreneurs to start their own Bison ranch (Bison farming business) could be that the business is a rapidly becoming a thriving and profitable business; you can actually start your own Bison ranch in your compound if you live in rural or farming community. All you need to do is to purchase the first set of calf, feed, farming tools and then build your fence.
Despite the fact that cattle farming business has been in existence since time immemorial, that does not in any way make the industry to be over saturated. The fact that there is always a ready market for meat, milk and hides makes the business ever green.
Over and above there are few barriers to entry into the Bison farming business. Usually, all inputs are readily available. In the nearest future, players in this industry may face the highest costs associated with accessing technology, especially in relation to genetic modification engineering in Bison breeding.
So also, intellectual property rights protecting new inventions and technology may mean that new entrepreneurs coming into the industry will need to pay license fees and this of course will cause an increase in the startup fee for starting a Bison ranch (Bison farming business).
Conduct Market Research and Feasibility Studies
- Demographics and Psychographics
The demographic and psychographic composition of those who make use of leather/fur products from Bison or drink the milk produced by Bison or eat meat from Bison are not restricted to a group of people hence the market is all encompassing.
So, if you are looking towards defining the demographics for your Bison ranch, then you should make it all encompassing. It should include all the players in the leather processing industry, milk and dairy product processing industry and of course consumers of Bison meat.
Decide Which Niche to Concentrate On
It is important to state that there is no niche area when it comes to Bison farming business. Basically, bison ranches are engage in Bison farming. They raise Bison for the purpose of generating hide, milk and meat, and even engage in mating Bison and in some cases grooming male Bison to perform in circus shows or animal games (tourist entertainment and races) or even Bison rentals et al.
The Level of Competition in the Industry
The level of competition in the Bison line of business to some extent depends on the location of the business and of course the capacity of your Bison ranch. If you can successfully add leader processing, milk processing and packaging to your business, you are likely going to experience little or no competition.
For instance, if you are the only Bison ranch in your city or even region that sells well – processed and packaged Bison milk, processed Bison leather or even rent out Bison in your location, you can successfully monopolize the market for a long time before you start having competitions.
It is important to also state that the competition in the Bison farming business or cattle farms industry depends on the scale of your Bison ranch.
Know Your Major Competitors in the Industry
Here are some of the most popular Bison ranches in the United States of America and around the globe;
- Hackmatack Bison Farm Maine
- Iron Bison Ranch
- Colvine Bison Farm
- Lester’s Bison Farm
- Bison Meat – Northfork Bison Ranch
- Maple Ridge Bison Ranch, Inc
- Vista Wood Bison Ranch
- Trinity Bison Ranch
- Green Fields Bison Ranch
- Melrose Bison Farm
- Pencil Bison Ranch
- Wild Sky Bison Ranch
- Durham Bison Ranch
- Woodland Farm/KY Bison
- Ozark Valley Bison Farm, LLC
- Cherokee Valley Bison Ranch
When starting a Bison ranch, you just have to get your costing cum economic analysis right if your intention of building the business is to generate profits, grow the business and start exporting fur, leather and milk within your country and other countries of the world.
When conducting costing and economic analysis for your Bison ranch, you just have to critically examine these key factors; access to the market, access to feed (Bison are herbivores, which means they only eat vegetation. Their diet can include herbs, ferns, mosses, grasses, shoots, fungi and leaves.), access to medications, access to cheap labor and of course good climatic condition.
As a matter of fact, you would have to continue to review these key factors at regular intervals while running your ranch. As a Bison ranch owner, you just have to have a proper grasp of your competitive landscape if indeed you want to maximize profits and be in the frontline of the industry.
It is important to note that medication/treatment and feed cost are some of the most important factors contributing to the overall cost of running a Bison ranch and should be considered as a major factor when carrying out your costing and economic analysis.
Decide Whether to Buy a Franchise or Start from Scratch
There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to choosing how you intend starting a business. Basically, you should be guided by your overall business vision and mission statement. When it comes to starting a business of this nature, it will pay you to start from the scratch as against buying a franchise.
Besides, from available research conducted, there are no known fully operational Bison ranch that offers franchising in the United States; most players in this line of business are adopting strategies that will help them sell their fur, hides, milk and meat beyond the city, state or country where their Bison ranch is domicile to other parts of the world as against selling franchise.
Besides, it is easier to start and run a Bison ranch from scratch without leveraging on a known brand name. People will patronize your fur, hides, milk and meat based on accessibility and pricing as against relying on a brand name. Please note that most of the big and successful Bison ranches around started from the scratch and they were able to build a solid business brand. It takes dedication, hard work and determination to achieve business success.
Know the Possible Threats and Challenges You Will Face
If you decide to start your own Bison ranch today, one of the major challenges you are likely going to face is the presence of well – established Bison ranches and even cattle farms that also raise Bison and other livestock for fur, hides, milk and meat et al in your target market location.
The only way to avoid this challenge is to create your own market; concentrate on cottage industries or leather processing mills or food processing factories that needs supply of fur, hides, milk and meat on a regular basis.
Some other threats and challenges that you are likely going to face when you start your Bison ranch are global economic downturn that can impact negatively on household spending, bad weather cum natural disasters (droughts, epidemics), unfavorable government policies and the arrival of a competitor Bison ranch (Bison farming business) or cattle farm) within same location.
There is hardly anything you can do as regards this threats and challenges other than to be optimistic that things will continue to work for your good.
Choose the Most Suitable Legal Entity (LLC, C Corp, S Corp)
When considering starting a standard Bison ranch, the legal entity you choose will go a long way to determine how big the business can grow; some Bison farmers design their business and services for regional market, while others for national market and international market.
Generally, you have the options of choosing a general partnership, limited liability company which is commonly called an LLC, or a sole proprietorship for your Bison ranch (Bison farming business). Ordinarily, sole proprietorship should have been the ideal business structure for a small – scale Bison ranch (Bison farming business) especially if you are just starting out with a moderate startup capital.
But if your intention is to grow the business and sell your seafood all across the United States of America, then choosing sole proprietor is not an option for you. Limited Liability Company, LLC or even general partnership will cut it for you.
Setting up an LLC protects you from personal liability. If anything goes wrong in the business, it is only the money that you invested into the limited liability company that will be at risk. It is not so for sole proprietorships and general partnerships. Limited liability companies are simpler and more flexible to operate and you don’t need a board of directors, shareholder meetings and other managerial formalities.
These are some of the factors you should consider before choosing a legal entity for your Bison ranch (Bison farming business); limitation of personal liability, ease of transferability, admission of new owners and investors’ expectation and of course taxes.
If you take your time to critically study the various legal entity to use for your Bison farming business, you will agree that limited liability company; an LLC is most suitable. You can start this type of business as limited liability company (LLC) and in future convert it to a ‘C’ corporation or ‘S’ corporation especially when you have the plans of going public.
Upgrading to a ‘C’ corporation or ‘S’ corporation will give you the opportunity to grow your Bison ranch (Bison farming business) so as to compete with major players in the industry; you will be able to generate capital from venture capital firms, you will enjoy separate tax structure, and you can easily transfer ownership of the company.
Choose a Catchy Business Name from the ideas Below
One of the most important steps that you should take on your quest to starting a business in the United States of America is to register the business name with the regulating authority. Of course, choosing a name for your business is the starting point to starting a business not just in the United States, but all across the globe.
When you come up with a name, it is always advisable to run a search to ensure that the name you choose is not an already trademarked name. Your business name must not have any profanity in it and must not be similar to the name of a company that is legally registered at Companies House or else it will not be approved. If you are considering starting a Bison ranch (Bison farming business), here are some catchy names that you can choose from;
- Rowland James & Family® Bison Ranch, LLC
- Nick Collins™ Bison Farms Ltd
- Percy Jones & Sons® Bison Ranch, LLC
- Gareth Denis™ Bison Ranch, Inc.
- Tim O’Connor® Bison farms Ltd.
- Ray Thomas® Bison Ranch, LLC
- Lewis Niles© Bison Ranch Ltd.
- Santos Mendez® Bison farms, Inc.
- Texas Brothers™ Bison Ranch, Inc.
- Brownie Fence™ Bison farms, Inc.
- Barrow Kings™ Bison Ranch, LLC.
Discuss With an Agent to Know the Best Insurance Policies for You
In the United States and in most countries of the world, you can’t operate a business without having some of the basic insurance policies that are required by the industry you want to operate from. Thus, it is imperative to create a budget for insurance and perhaps consult an insurance broker to guide you in choosing the best and most appropriate insurance policies for your business.
Here are some of the basic insurance policies that you should consider purchasing if you want to start a Bison ranch in the United States of America;
- General insurance
- Health insurance
- Liability insurance
- Risk Insurance
- Workers compensation
- Animal Mortality Insurance
- Farm Equipment and Auto Insurance
- Commercial Agribusiness Insurance
- Overhead expense disability insurance
- Business owner’s policy group insurance
- Payment protection insurance
You can contact the following leading insurance companies in the United States of America to purchase insurance policies for your Bison ranch (Bison farming business);
- Allstate Insurance Group
- Liberty Mutual
- Progressive Insurance Group (PGR)
- Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC)
- New York Life Insurance Company
- Lincoln National Life Insurance Company
- MassMutual (Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company)
- Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company
Protect your Intellectual Property With Trademark, Copyrights, Patents
If you are considering starting a Bison ranch, usually you may not have any need to file for intellectual property protection/trademark. This is so because the nature of the business makes it possible for you to successfully run it without having any cause to challenge anybody in court for illegally making use of your company’s intellectual properties.
But if you just want to protect your company’s logo and other documents or software that are unique to you or even production concepts especially in relation to genetic modification engineering in livestock breeding, then you can go ahead to file for intellectual property protection.
If you want to register your trademark, you are expected to begin the process by filing an application with the USPTO. The final approval of your trademark is subjected to the review of attorneys as required by USPTO.
Get the Necessary Professional Certification
If you want to make an impact in the Bison farming business, you should work towards acquiring all the needed certifications in your area of specialization. Certification validates your competency and shows that you are highly skilled, committed to your career, and up-to-date in this competitive market.
These are some of the certifications you can work towards achieving if you want to run your Bison farming business;
- P. Livestock Certification
- (Cert III Level) or Wool Classing (Cert IV Level).
- Wool Preparation and Wool Classing qualifications.
- Livestock Production certificate
Please note that the average local Bison rancher in suburbs in the United States do not have certifications and that does not in any way stop them from growing their businesses to enviable height.
Get the Necessary Legal Documents You Need to Operate
It is a fact that you cannot successfully run any business in the United States without the proper documentations. If you do, it won’t be too long before the long hands of the law catch up with you. These are some of the basic legal documents that you are expected to have in place if you want to legally run your own business in the United States of America;
- Business and liability insurance
- Federal Tax Payer’s ID
- State Permit
- Farm Partnership Agreement
- Certificate of Incorporation
- Business License
- Business Plan
- Employment Agreement (offer letters)
- Operating Agreement for LLCs
- Insurance Policy
- Company Bylaws
- Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)
Raise the Needed Startup Capital
Starting a standard and well – equipped Bison ranch can be capital intensive especially if you choose to open a large ranch with the capacity to supply fur, hides, milk and meat beyond your immediate community.
Securing a large farm land, building well – secured and conducive cattle ranch, purchase of the first set of Bison, purchasing livestock feed and farming tools/equipment are part of what will consume a large chunk of your startup capital, but if you choose to start the business on a small scale, you may not have the need to source for fund to finance the business.
The truth is that when it comes to financing a business, one of the first things you should consider is to write a good business plan. If you have a good and workable business plan document in place, you may not have to labor yourself before convincing your bank, investors and your friends to invest in your business. Here are some of the options you can explore when sourcing for startup capital for your Bison ranch (Bison farming business);
- Raising money from personal savings and sale of personal stocks and properties
- Raising money from investors and business partners
- Sell shares to interested investors
- Applying for loan from your bank
- Pitching your business idea and applying for business grants and seed funding from, government and donor organizations
- Source for soft loans from your family members and your friends.
Choose a Suitable Location for your Business
Starting your Bison farming business comes with its own challenges; it is a business that cannot be started in any location of your choice. As a matter of fact, you will not be allowed to start a Bison ranch in a residential estate in the United States of America. The only location you can be allowed to start a Bison ranch is a farm land designated for cattle farms and it is usually in the outskirt of town – countryside.
It cannot be overemphasized that the location you chose to construct your cattle ranch is key to the success of the business, hence entrepreneurs are willing to rent or lease a facility in a visible location; a location that has minimal predators and right climatic condition for the animals you intend raising. If you make the mistake of renting or leasing a farm land for your Bison ranch in a location that is prone to predator attack simply because it is cheap, then you must be prepared to spend more in protecting your herd.
It is important to note that a business facility in good location does not come cheap hence you should be able to allocate enough fund for leasing / renting in your budget. If you are new to the dynamics of choosing a location for your business, then you should feel free to talk to a business consultant or a realtor.
Most importantly, before choosing a location for your Bison ranch, ensure that you first conduct a thorough feasibility studies and market survey. The possibility of you coming across similar business that just closed shop in the location you want to open yours can’t be ruled out.
Which is why it is very important to gather as much facts and figures before choosing a location to set up your Bison farming business. Having said that, these are some of the cities in the United States of America where you can locate your Bison farming business;
- Little Rock, Arkansas
- Idaho Falls, Idaho
- Fort Wayne, Indiana
- Des Moines, Iowa
- Overland Park, Kansas
- Bangor, Maine
- North Platte, Nebraska
- Dallas, Texas
- Salt Lake City, Utah
Buy a Farm
This business is a long term business, so may require that you buy out your own land space to serve as your farm. You can also workout a long term lease agreement if the capital you have cannot cover for out rightly buying off a land. The piece of land that will serve as your farm should be a level ground and have plenty pasture for your bison to graze on.
Build a Farm
After you lease the land, you need to fence the land all around with a gate at each side of the fence. Bison are strong animals, so the materials for constructing the fence should be strong materials, like barb wire and the fence should be at least 6 feet high to prevent bison from jumping over it.
Hire Employees for your Technical and Manpower Needs
When it comes to starting a standard Bison ranch, you will need the following equipment/machines; wool/fleece collectors, water trough/channel, fencing, shovel and rake, and wheel barrow/cart. This equipment can be purchased as fairly used if you have low budget.
When it comes to choosing between renting and leasing a farm land for your Bison ranch, the size of the ranch you want to own, and your entire budget for the business should influence your choice. If you have enough capital to run a pretty large Bison ranch with the capacity to process milk and leather, then you should consider the option of long lease or out rightly purchasing a farm land; when you lease, or purchase a farm land, you will be able to work with long – term planning, structuring and expansion.
As regards the number of employees that you are expected to kick start the business with, you need to consider your finance before making the decision. Averagely, when it comes to starting a standard Bison ranch, you would need the services of the following professionals; Chief Operating Officer (you can occupy this position), General Farm Manager, Veterinary Doctor (optional because it can be contracted), Human Resources and Admin Manager, Accountant/Cashier, Sales and Marketing Executive, Field Employees, and Security Guards.
Over and above, you would need a minimum of 20 to 50 key staff members to effectively run a medium scale but standard Bison ranch (Bison farming business).
Purchase Your Bison
It is advisable that you start with calves if this is your first time running a farm. This is because it is easier to train a calf and make them less violent then when you purchase matured bison. Also, it will give you enough time to familiarize yourself with your calves before they mature into bison.
You can buy calves from bison farmers in your location. It is advisable to go with a Veterinary doctor to carry out series of test on the calves to ensure that they are free from disease, because it will be to your disadvantage to buy sickly calves.
The Service Delivery Process of the Business
When it comes to generating fur, hide, milk and meat from Bison, the process is simple and straight forward. Basically, when the Bison are matured enough to produce milk, then a specific period of the day is chosen (usually in the morning) when the milk are collected. Once the milk is collected, they are stored in a neat container or directly supplied to a customer as requested.
In the case of fur, hide, and meat, matured Bison are slaughtered in order to obtain hides, fur and meat. The fur and hide are sold to leather and fiber processing companies. It is important to state that a Bison ranch may decide to improvise or adopt any business process and structure that will guarantee them efficiency and flexibility; the above stated process is not cast on stone.
Write a Marketing Plan Packed with ideas & Strategies
As a Bison rancher, you have to prove that you have the capacity to not only to manage a Bison ranch, but also to supply fur, hide, milk and meat on commercial level on a consistent basis. So, if you have plans to start your own Bison ranch, it will pay you to first build your capacity before sourcing to supply fur, hides, milk and meat to larger fiber mills and milk processing companies who require regular supply.
So, when you are drafting your marketing plans, make sure that you create a compelling personal and company profile. Aside from your qualifications and experience, it is important to clearly state in practical terms what you have been able to achieve in time past as it relates to the industry you intend starting your business.
This will help boost your chances in the market place. Here are some of the platforms you can utilize to market your Bison ranch (Bison farming business) and its produce;
- Introduce your business by sending introductory letters alongside your brochure to fiber mills and leather processing companies that make use of fur and hide, milk and meat processing companies and related businesses in the United States (if you are just starting out, you may want to concentrate on startups and smaller businesses)
- Promptness in bidding for fur, hides, milk and meat supply contracts et al
- Advertise your Bison ranch (Bison farming business) in community – based newspapers, local TV and radio stations
- List your Bison ranch (Bison farming business) on yellow pages ads (local directories)
- Leverage on the internet to promote your Bison ranch (Bison farming business)
- Engage in direct marketing and sales of your fur, hides, milk and meat
- Encourage the use of word of mouth marketing (referrals)
- Leverage on the internet to promote your business (when you blog regularly on key issues as it relates to your business, people who consider you an expert in the field)
- Join local chambers of commerce and industry around you with the main aim of networking and marketing your products; you are likely going to get referrals from such networks.
- Engage the services of marketing executives and business developers to carry out direct marketing for you
Work Out a Reasonable Pricing for your Services & Products
One key factor that will help you sell your Bison, fur, hides, milk and meat at rock bottom prices is to purchase your Bison, Bison feeds, medications and other cattle farming tools and equipment directly from the manufacturers in pretty large quantities. The truth is the higher the quantity of items that you purchase directly from the manufacturers, the cheaper you tend to get them.
Another strategy that will help you retail your Bison, fur, hides, milk and meat at the right price is to ensure that you cut operational cost to the barest minimum and channel your efforts towards marketing and promoting your brand name. Aside from the fact that this strategy will help you save cost, it will also help you get the right pricing for your products.
You can also try as much as possible to work with independent contractors and marketers; it will help you save cost for paying sales and marketing executives. So also, if you are able to secure business partnership as it relates to getting referrals, then you will be able to get the right pricing and of course maximize profits from your business.
Develop Iron-clad Competitive Strategies to Help You Win
The Bison farming business business cum cattle farms industry is a competitive industry, and you must come up with a unique and highly creative strategy to be able to outsmart your competitors in the industry. Part of what you need to do in order to stay competitive in the industry is to continue to create easier and cheaper ways to rear Bison and produce fur, hides, milk and meat on a commercial quantity.
In other to stay competitive in this industry, you must ensure that your fur, hides, milk and meat are distributed and always available in outlets within your target market locations. The truth is that if there are fluctuations in the supply of your fur, hides, milk and meat, customers can choose to shift allegiance and settle for other options available.
Brainstorm Possible Ways to Retain Clients & Customers
Come to think of it, no matter the industry that you choose to pitch your tent in, one of the easiest ways to increase customer retention and perhaps to attract new customers is to produce results and satisfy your customers always. If your customers are satisfied with your products and services delivery, they can hardly source for alternative service provider or products.
Without a doubt, one of the strategies that you need to employ in order to generate repeated sales from your customers and also to retain them is to ensure that the supply of your fur, hides, milk and meat is constant and does not fluctuate.
The truth is that if your supply fluctuates, you are likely going to struggle to get your customers coming back; people usually go for products that are of good quality. You can also make uses of promotional ideas such as loyalty schemes, direct marketing, door drops, and merchandising.
If your the quality of your products and customer service fluctuate, you are likely going to struggle to get your customers coming back to purchase your products or services. Ensure that you offer your customers incentives if you want to retain them and of course continue to generate repeated sales from them and also to attract new customers.
Part of what you need to do to achieve this is to track progress, results or outputs with the aim of improving on them quickly as the case demands. When it comes to managing your customers and building a loyal clientele base, you should purchase a customized CRM software.
With a customized CRM system, you can easily stay in touch with your clients (you can carry out quick surveys, you can introduce new products and prices to them without any hitch, you can felicitate with them on their birthdays and other anniversaries, you can keep track of their progress, you can send bulk sms and customized e – mails and above all, you can easily receive compliant and feedback from them).
Develop Strategies to Boost Brand Awareness and Create a Corporate Identity
If you are in business and you are not conscious about boosting you brand awareness and communicating your corporate identity, then you should be ready to take on whatever the society portrays your business to be. One of the secrets of larger corporations is that they are willing to spend fortunes to boost their brand awareness and to continue to communicate their corporate identity the way they want people to perceive them to be.
No matter the industry you belong to, the truth is that the market is dynamic and it requires consistent brand awareness and brand boosting cum promotion to continue to appeal to your target market. Here are the platforms you can leverage on to boost your brand and create a corporate identity for your Bison ranch (Bison farming business);
- Place adverts on both print (newspapers and food related magazines) and electronic media platforms
- Sponsor relevant community – based events
- Leverage on the internet and social media platforms like; Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google + et al to promote your (fur, hides, milk and meat)
- Install your billboards in strategic locations all around your city or state
- Distribute your fliers and handbills in target areas
- List your Bison ranch in local directories / yellow pages
- Advertise your Bison ranch in your official website and employ strategies that will help you pull traffic to the site
- Position your Flexi Banners at strategic positions in the location where your Bison ranch is located.
- Ensure that all your staff members wear your branded shirts and all your vehicles are branded with your company logo.