North Carolina Deer & Elk Farmers Association
An association ensuring the future of whitetail deer, elk, and other cervidae farming within our state

Elk

Elk

Breeding Stock

  • Elk are a single offspring species; twinning is rare.
  • Selective breeding to enhance the benefits of the stock will always be in demand.

Velvet

  • Bulls produce velvet every year. An average 2-year-old will grow approximately 9 lbs. of velvet. Generally, bulls increase velvet yields every year until maturity. Mature bulls (7 to 8-years-old) may produce 30-40 lbs. of velvet.
  • A herd with an even distribution from yearlings to mature bulls will average 15 lbs. per head.
  • There is an expanding demand for velvet products in North America.
  • It is a classic renewable resource.

Bulls

  • Mature bulls average 800 to 1,100 pounds, stand 5' to 5'6" at the shoulder, and are 7 to 8 years of age.
  • They are capable of breeding at two years of age.
  • Top velvet producing bulls have large circumference beams and mass above the third tine.
  • The antlers' number of points is influenced by genetics and feed, as well as by maturity.
  • Antlers fall off in March and regrow every year.
  • When harvested in May or June, 20 to 30 pounds of Grade A velvet should be the yield from a mature bull.
  • They dress out at approximately 60% of live weight.

Cows

  • Mature cows average 550 to 600 pounds, stand 4' to 5' at the shoulder, and are three to four years of age.
  • Most 18-month-old females will cycle if they weigh at least 430 lbs.
  • They do not grow antlers.
  • They are very good mothers.

Calves

  • They are born in May or June and spend the first week of their lives in tall grass, usually getting up only to nurse.
  • They are spotted when born and develop their brown coats in six months.
  • Through natural instinct, the cow watches the calf from a short distance, drawing near when it is threatened.

Breeding

  • The rut, controlled by the day/night cycle, is from late August to late October.
  • For best success, breeding bulls should be three years old or older.
  • One bull can service 20 to 40 cows.
  • A bull will gather a group of females and keep them away from other bulls.
  • Bulls compete for dominance through bugling, sparring, and chasing would-be competitors away. (Injuries are rare.)
  • Bulls and cows go through a ritual before the actual "high mount" of mating.
  • A cow's gestation is approximately 246 days,+ or - 10 days
  • Artificial insemination is common, with a success rate of 50-80%.

Calving

  • All cows will "bag up" before giving birth.
  • The older the cow, the more "pregnant" she will appear.
  • The cow will start to "walk the fences" prior to calving, looking for a quiet, private place to give birth.
  • Ensure through controlled feeding that cows are not fat, as this restricts the size of the birth canal and increases the size of the calf.
  • Although calving problems are rare, farmers can help the cow by pulling the calf, but only after waiting a lengthy period for a natural birth.
  • The cow will immediately accept the calf and clean it, and the calf will stand to nurse.

Source: North American Elk Breeders Association (www.naelk.org)

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