About the elk
-Elk are very hardy animals and require little day to day care. They are ruminants, meaning they have four stomachs and can eat the same foods as a dairy cow. In the summer, they graze and are fed oats, as well as a special elk grain. In the winter, they are supplemented with balage and dry hay.
-Elk enjoy the cold winters and do not need shelter from the elements. They grow a warm, thick coat, similar to that of a polar bear where each strand of hair is hollow. This provides a very effective layer of insulation. Indeed, elk are more comfortable in a blowing snow storm than a hot summer day. They don't care for the hot weather and we are careful to provide shade and plenty of water during this time of year. The above photo shows a small lean-to we constructed to provide shade.
-Our elk are by no means pets, they are wild animals and can be very dangerous. The elk prefer to be fed and left alone. They are handled only when necessary for such things as vaccinations, injuries (which are rare), mandatory herd inventory, or to ship an elk to slaughter. For these occasions we have a special handling facility, see More about our Farm.
-Elk are herd animals. There is always a boss cow, but in the fall during Rut, the breeding season, the bull will take charge. During this time the bulls "muscle up" and become very dangerous and unpredictable. We feed through the fence or on a tractor during this time.
-The cows will calve around June. They nurse their calves for around 4 months. Elk cows are excellent mothers They are very protective of their calves and in many ways are more dangerous than the bulls.
-Each spring the bulls grow a new set of antlers. The starting growth will push last year's antlers off. This new growth stage is called velvet. In the fall the antlers will calcify into the hard stage. We remove the antlers at this point to avoid damage to other elk, ourselves, and the fences. The removal of the antlers is painless.