2010 - Volume #BFS, Issue #10, Page #46
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Rare White Elk Attract Attention To Farm
Leonard and Diane Witscheber sell elk for meat, but they won't part with any of their rare white elk. The unusual animals do get people's attention, however, and that's good for sales.
"They look like albinos but they're actually a breed known as Siberian elk, with blue eyes and pink inside their ears," explains Diane.
She and her husband currently have around 40 elk; 7 are white Siberians. Initially they added white stock to the farm by artificially inseminating several cows with Siberian elk semen. Then they also bought several purebred Siberians.
"The Siberians have softer hair than the crossbred white elk," notes Witscheber. "All the white elk are a little smaller than the rest of the elk."
Witscheber says the white elk sell at a premium, but it can be hard to find ones for sale. They plan to build their white elk herd numbers before selling any themselves.
The Witschebers bought their first elk simply because they enjoyed watching them. As they added more, they started looking at them for income as well. Today they sell meat from excess animals through a local farmers market and to others in the local community.
While they keep their best bulls for breeding, high quality bulls are sold as trophy animals through a local hunting preserve. Prices for breeding stock varies significantly depending on the animal, says Witscheber. Trophy animal prices vary according antler shape and size.
"We have sold animals from $700 to as high as $6,000," she says.
Another ongoing cost is certification. In order to sell live animals off the farm, they have to be tested for Chronic Wasting Disorder, TB and, if sold out of state, Brucellosis. Witscheber says their farm is completely certified in those respects.
Although the couple is seeing a positive response to their meat sales effort, Wischeber doesn't recommend elk production for the profit. "If you want to make money, I wouldn't recommend elk," she says. "The market still isn't there for the meat. And there is no market for the antlers either. Fencing is expensive, and you have to respect the fact that elk are wild animals."
"Although they cost us money, we still love looking at them, and we love the way elk tastes. Plus, it's good for you."
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, River Birch Ranch, M179 Balsam Ave., Merrill, Wis. 54452 (ph 715 536-4818; witscheber@airrun.net).

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2010 - Volume #BFS, Issue #10