Supporting Alberta’s Elk Industry

Resolution E3-23,

This January the ASB’s passed Resolution E3-23 asking the provincial government to support a thriving Elk industry in Alberta by reducing the regulatory burden created by the Federal and Provincial programs. The process is very complex.

The Elk industry has been active in Alberta for a long time, and an association was incorporated in 1988 to bring some organization and structure to the industry. China, Russia and New Zealand are the top three elk producers globally. At its peek the North American industry supplied a mere 5-10% of the global demand. In 2011 there were 244 farms and just over 16,000 elk in Alberta. In 2023, just 12 years later only 113 farms and less than 8000 animals remain. The main markets for Alberta Elk prior to the discovery of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) was for velvet and meat. Large antlers are needed to increase the amount of velvet harvested, and Canada has some of the best genetics in the world.

This March 26, the Elk Commission held their annual AGM, and it was attended by Minister Horner. Two articles were published this week in the Western Producer about the event and add some details to the struggles faced by the industry.

Elks Regulatory Squeeze – background to the impacts on producers

Elks Producers Face Uphill Battle for Hunt Farms – outcomes from Minister Horner’s address

“The number one killer of elk in Canada is the government”

Since the first CWD non negative result was found in Canada, the elk industry has been suffering, and Canada continues to have some of the most complex and stringent regulations. US approach to CWD varies by state, however recovery from a CWD event is faster, and many jurisdictions are now accepting a non lethal test for CWD. In Canada, farms depopulated because of CWD are not permitted to re-populate, and the non lethal testing is not yet approved. Adoption of a non lethal method to find and eliminate CWD animals in a herd that had a positive test at slaughter would go a long way to eliminating the slaughter and waste of thousands of healthy animals.

CWD Test Called “Important Development”

AgKnow, Alberta’s Farm Mental Health Network is speaking with Elk and Deer farmers about their experiences with depopulation and looking at the impact of these events on the health, wellbeing and sustainability of these family farms. In the very least, the processes, programs and systems put in place to protect the health of wild populations and consumers should also support the farmers who are impacted. Diseases happen, perhaps the trauma doesn’t need too.

To tell your story and participate in the AgKnow Study on Farm Animal Epidemics and Depopulation please visit the website.

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