Elk producers optimistic about rising antler prices

EDMONTON — Elk antler prices are expected to rise almost 20 percent and reach some of their highest prices in years, says the head of an elk co-op.

“We’ve got reason for optimism from a long hard downturn,” said Blaine Weber of Norelkco, which focuses on selling antler.

Elk producers can expect $50 a pound for elk antler, up from $40 per lb. last year, said Weber.

The premium antler regrowth and spikers from early cut bulls will possible reach $65 per lb., he told Alberta Elk Commission members.

“If you have good spikers, there is definitely money in it.”

The higher prices are a welcome relief for elk producers who have toughed out antler prices as low as $10 a lb.

Farmed elk numbers in Canada have dropped from 85,000 at their peak to 20,000 today, and Weber is hoping higher prices for meat, hunt farm bulls and antlers will entice more people back to the industry.

A group of producers formed Norelkco as a new generation co-op in 2004 at the bottom of the elk antler market to add value to antler by developing pet products.

However, it has sold more than $5 million of antler to seven buyers in Hong Kong since becoming a Canadian elk antler marketer.

“We have no alliances to any buyer,” Weber said.

“We don’t do it on profit. We do it to keep the prices up.”

The lowest price Norelkco paid for green antler last year was $40 per lb. for ungraded antler.

“If you are anxious to get rid of your antler early and are anxious about watching your freezers, want it off the farm and want a truck to pick it up, you probably won’t get the highest price you could,” he told the elk commission.

“If you are willing to take some of the risk, hold it and go through the grading process as it evolves, you may win, you may lose.”

The graded antler allows the co-op to divide elk antler shipments to separate out premium products and receive more money.

Weber said there are rumours that the antler crop from New Zealand, which is Canada’s largest competition, has been sold and its producers paid, but the antlers are still sitting in storage waiting for resale.

“But that is what they tell us every year. It is hard to verify it. Once it hits Hong Kong, who knows where it goes.”

Early discussions with previous buyers are positive, he said.

“I wait for people who bought from us before. They are back to us earlier than ever.”

Contact mary.macarthur@producer.com

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