How to Get Started
There are two methods on how to get involved in the elk business. One is by being an investor only. This means you do not need to own any land, build any
fence, build any handling facilities or work any animals. The other option is to set up your own ranching operation. Typically you would already own
your own land, but if not you will need to purchase some land and then build adequate fence and facilities.
This is a choice which is gaining in popularity. Many individuals want to be involved
in the elk market and have a good strong investment opportunity. It is difficult to become
involved in the elk industry without owning land and having a place to graze the animals.
Many ranchers offer an investment strategy which will benefit all parties.
The cost structure can be broken down many ways, but the two most popular methods are:
1) The rancher will provide the land, fence, and facilities and will help purchase
animals for you, breed the animals, feed them, check them, and inoculate them on a regular
basis. In return you will share half your calf crop with the rancher. There are many
details to this plan be discussed. How to cost out the bulls fees, babies fees, state
2) The rancher will provide the land, fence, and facilities and will help purchase
animals for you, feed them, check them, and inoculate them on a regular basis. The owner
will pay the rancher a monthly fee to provide all these services (typically around $1.75
to $2.50 per day per animal). Inoculations, bull stud fees, etc. need to be discussed on a
separate basis with additional costs.
Other issues that need to be considered and discussed are animal insurance, TB testing
for accreditation, and other such items.
There are a few animal brokers and animal consultants who can assist you in purchasing
good stock to start with, for a nominal fee. If you have little experience in the elk
business and are not sure what to look for, an animal broker might be able to help quite a
bit. There are investing consultants who
can help you set up an investing plan and get you started with the right animals. They
will take care of all purchases, boarding, and contracts. For an investor who's time is
very valuable or and investor who does not know much about the industry, this type of
consultant is very valuable.
If you purchased animals from a rancher and want him to board
them for a period, until you can set up a ranch, you may want to discuss the time periods
and boarding arrangements prior to finalizing the deal. Most ranchers will hold animals
for a month or so, but when it gets longer than this, then boarding arrangements should be
Setting Up Your Own Ranch
Before you get fully started it would be beneficial to contact elk breeders in your
area for assistance, advice and ideas. Visit as many ranches as you can (no less than 5)
to get a full spectrum of thoughts and ideas. Every rancher has their own ideas on how
things work and should be done, so be careful to understand what is a necessity and what
is a ranchers philosophy. You will need to contact your state regulatory agency and see
what regulations you will need to follow. Some states have grant programs through the
agricultural departments. Many of the state agricultural sources are quite willing to help
and give you contacts to assist you in starting.
As a general rule of thumb, you can run three elk where you run one cow. The elk eat
approximately 2% of their body weight every day (a 1000 lb. bull will eat ~20 lbs. of
feed). It seems that in the spring and summer the elk eat more fresh growth. This has been
explained that they need to flush out their systems from the winter feed.
The elk eat high protein alfalfa (20%) and a grain supplement. The elk
feed page explains this in better detail. If you pay $100 per ton for 3rd cutting
alfalfa and $10/100 pounds for the grain supplement, your feeding bill for an average elk
would be less than $300 per year (assuming grain is fed every day and purchased alfalfa is
fed for 6 months). You want to cut back on feeding females grain one to two months prior
to them giving birth. If this is not done, you risk a tough birthing and hard labor
because the female is to large and not in shape. There are also additional
links on elk nutrition at other sites.
The fence that is erected is comparably inexpensive compared to the worth of the
animals behind them, so be sure to install strong sturdy fence to protect your investment
from getting out and from other animals getting in. The fencing and
facilities page can explain this in more detail. The cost of the fence is
approximately a little more than $1.00/foot. 12-foot posts range from $8.00 to $12.00 per
post, depending on where in the country you live and where you are purchasing posts from.
You will also need fence stretching boards, wire cutters, staples, chain walkers,
additional high tensile wire, etc. If you have it installed by a fencing company (make
sure the company can install this type of specialty fence) the installation should be
around $2.00 per foot.
The animals vary in cost from rancher to rancher and across the continent. Animal
health is a large consideration for price as well as velvet production, animal size,
progeny, temperament, conformation, etc. The Auction results
page shows you current prices of auctioned animals, but in general, a breeding bull with
excellent velvet production will sell for upwards to $50,000. A breeding bull with good
size and conformation and acceptable velvet production will sell for around $8-18,000. A
breeding female which is guaranteed pregnant will sell for between $7,500 to $10,000
depending on the rancher, local prices, and genetics. A heifer cow will sell for around
$4,000 to $6,000.
There are some health concerns ranchers should be aware of. The primary concerns
are spelled out in the health section of the health/feed page.
Various states have different regulations on testing for animals, but all states agree
on the main tests that need to be performed prior to moving animals onto your property.
These are TB, Brucellosis, and Anaplasmosis. Many ranchers are certified as TB accredited
(three whole herd tests over a two year period). Brucellosis and Anaplasmosis. are test
prior to moving animals and these tests are only valid for 30 days.
There are a few animal brokers and investor consultants who can assist you in
purchasing good stock to start with, for a nominal fee. If you have little experience in
the elk business and are not sure what to look for, an animal broker might be able to help
quite a bit.
Stoney Ridge Elk Farm has a computational analysis on the Internet...try this and see if it helps.
Insurance is offered in a variety of styles. You can get full mortality coverage from
companies and agents who represent Lloyds of London. Full coverage costs around 5.75% up
to 8% of the declared animal value, annually. You might be able to get your animals
insured under your ranch policy from State Farm, Farmers, Farm Bureau, or others. A ranch
policy would only cover limited deaths, not full mortality.