[copperpress-advertserve-ad-reload zone="3"]
ARCHIVED  December 1, 1995

Elk Echo Ranch breeds new Weld industry

STONEHAM — “Livestock of the future” isn’t what generally comes to mind when most people think of elk.
Within the industry, however, that’s exactly what many people are beginning to believe. Elk Echo Ranch in Stoneham is one of the many elk ranches popping up across the United States. Owned and operated by Craig and Noreen McConnell, Elk Echo demonstrates how the industry has grown.
The McConnells first became involved in elk ranching after the second annual Elk Convention in Denver in 1992. They’ve seen their original investment of $33,000 grow to more than $2 million, and their elk population grow from five to 330. Craig believes it was “without question the best investment I’ve ever made.”
Elk have been an excellent investment for several reasons. “A rancher with 1,000 acres of land can raise 250 elk vs. 60 head of beef cattle,” he said.
Another reason to raise elk is that they provide a renewable source of income: the antlers, also known as velvet. In the Orient, antler velvet has been harvested for more than 2,000 years and used for a variety of healing purposes.
Here, the antler is harvested annually and sent to Montrose, where it is processed and returned in a liquefied form. The velvet serves as the base ingredient in a formula that some believe provides numerous medicinal benefits, including a boost in stamina and alleviation of pain associated with arthritis and menopause.
The velvet is sold in the United States for $65 to $75 per pound, and because it is produced annually by the elk, it provides a renewable source of income uncommon to most other farmed animals.
The elk industry is now regulated by the Department of Agriculture, due to Bill 1096, effective June 1, 1994. The Division of Wildlife continues “to regulate key areas such as establishing the genetic purity of captive elk and approval of the sites where ranches can be established,´ said Todd Malmsbury, public-information chief of the Colorado Division of Wildlife.
The Division of Wildlife’s main concerns with the industry are in verifying the genetic purity of the elk brought into the state and guarding against the transmission of diseases from wild and private elk.
Craig McConnell, who serves as vice president of the Colorado Elk and Game Breeders Association, has spent considerable time spreading the news about the benefits of ranching elk. Bob and Phyliss Martin of Martin Angus Ranch in Wray are two of the many people who are convinced that elk are the future of the ranching industry.
“We just spent $300,000 for 50 elk,” Bob Martin said, “so obviously we are convinced that this is an excellent investment.” He cites the return on the velvet and the more economical use of pasture land as key reasons he became involved in elk ranching.
The McConnells offer a share-farming arrangement at Elk Echo Ranch for those interested in investing in the business. They sell their elk for $6,000 to $6,500. For an additional $1,000 per year, they guarantee that your elk will be fed, blood tested and bred. Also, for 6 percent of the purchase price, Elk Echo will insure the elk for full mortality.
Last year, elk boarders at Elk Echo Ranch enjoyed a 19 percent to 37 percent return, plus 9 percent depreciation. “For a person with money invested in a CD with a 3 percent return, this is a very lucrative alternative,” Craig McConnell said.
Clients of Elk Echo Ranch are diverse.
“Our clients range from doctors and lawyers to parents interested in investing for their children’s college education,” Craig McConnell said. “People buy elk for investments, write-offs, and just plain enjoyment of the majestic animal.”
Jim MacRill, a doctor in Sterling, and his wife, Lynn, are among the 42 clients who board their elk at Elk Echo Ranch. Lynn MacRill said Craig runs a top-notch operation.
“Everything at Elk Echo is top of the line, from the fencing to the care of the animals,” she said. The MacRills hope to build their original investment of one bull, two cows and one buffalo into a herd of their own.
Wade Hainstock, executive director of the North American Elk Breeders Association, said, “There is a worldwide market out there. As with any industry, the limiting factor is supply.”

STONEHAM — “Livestock of the future” isn’t what generally comes to mind when most people think of elk.
Within the industry, however, that’s exactly what many people are beginning to believe. Elk Echo Ranch in Stoneham is one of the many elk ranches popping up across the United States. Owned and operated by Craig and Noreen McConnell, Elk Echo demonstrates how the industry has grown.
The McConnells first became involved in elk ranching after the second annual Elk Convention in Denver in 1992. They’ve seen their original investment of $33,000 grow to more than $2 million, and their elk population…

[copperpress-advertserve-ad-reload zone="3"]

Related Content

[copperpress-advertserve-ad-interstitial zone="30"]