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Starting a New Elk Farm

First, buy and study “The Elk Farming Handbook”. It is 330 pages of invaluable information on every aspect of selecting, building, operating and marketing a successful elk farm. Available from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Next, apply for a premises ID number from Manitoba Agriculture, at 

Now apply for a licence to operate an elk farm at: 

As part of that application, they will ask you to:  

  • Attach a copy of the land title or a copy of a lease, or a right of possession of the land under an allotment, certificate, or lease under the Indian Act (Canada).  
  • Then you will state: “I apply to possess elk as a game-production animal. I agree to comply with all statutes and regulations associated with the Livestock Industry Diversification Act for the elk that I am licensed to possess. 
  • You will need to include licence fee $100 (make cheque payable to Minister of Finance) Note: Licences are valid from April 1 one year to March 31 of the year following. 
  • You will be asked to submit a plan for initial approval, and with that done, you will build your initial fence and adequate facilities to safely handle elk. An Ag Inspector will visit your farm, approve your facility and issue permission for you to acquire and move elk to your farm.  
  • All farmed elk in Manitoba must bear two readable Official dangle tags. If your elk come with these, that is adequate. If you need tags for animals that have lost theirs or for new calves, go to 

Movement of Elk Livestock and Products

Movement of farmed elk requires a Cervid Movement Permit to be issued by the District Office of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. A copy needs to go with the transporter and another maintained by the shipper.

Any change in inventory must be reported to Manitoba Agriculture. 

At the present time, although the Governing legislation (Manitoba Livestock Industry Diversification Act and Regulations) allows import of animals with a Permit from Manitoba Agriculture, no permits have been issued for several years due to concerns regarding Chronic Wasting Disease in neighbouring jurisdictions.  

Tuberculosis and Elk Farming in Manitoba

The Facts

  • TB is believed to have been introduced to Manitoba with domestic livestock, long ago 
  • TB was never diagnosed in wildlife before it was recognized in domestic livestock 
  • TB has never been diagnosed in farmed elk or deer in Manitoba 
  • TB has not been diagnosed in any farmed cervid (deer or elk) in Canada since 2006. That single positive was in a Red Deer imported 15 years before from New Zealand, where TB is widespread. 
  • The few incidents of TB in farmed elk or deer in Canada historically have all been traced back to imported or zoo- sourced animals, never to a wild source.  
  • The mode of transmission of TB in the RMNP periphery is believed to have been through saliva exchanged on hay bales between cattle and wild cervids.
  • No positive TB case has been found in or near RMNP since 2017.
  • Farmed elk are kept behind fences that are elk and deer-proof. 
  • All farmed cervids in Canada have been whole- herd tested for TB and Brucellosis regularly for many years. 
  • All farmed elk that are harvested at inspected processing plants in Manitoba and most of Canada are carefully inspected for any signs of disease and tested for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) 
  • CWD has never been found in Manitoba

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)

The Facts

  • CWD has never been found in Manitoba 
  • CWD is a degenerative disease that affects the brain and nervous system of affected cervids, resulting in their death.  
  • White-tailed and especially mule deer are most susceptible to CWD. Elk and red deer are much less so.  
  • CWD has never been shown or suspected to be transmissible to humans. 
  • If an individual deer of a species susceptible to CWD is exposed to a sufficient number of infectious CWD prions, morbidity and mortality may be induced after a prolonged incubation period of 17 months to more than 4 years. After the onset of clinical signs caused by spongiform encephalopathy (holes in the brain) the disease is usually fatal and rapidly so. 
  • CWD is neither a “wild deer” disease nor a “captive deer” disease but can be found in both. There are 3 US States with CWD only in captive deer herds and 8 States with CWD only in wild free-ranging populations. In Canada, CWD has been diagnosed in Alberta and Saskatchewan, plus a few cases on one red deer farm in Quebec. Based on USDA positive test prevalence numbers, CWD is more common in wild cervids than in captive cervids. 
  • CWD is a rare disease with a prevalence less than 1% in the over one million deer tested in North America over the last 20 years, and a prevalence of 11.2% in the 196 CWD positive counties in the 23 CWD positive States.  
  • In small populations in localized areas of Wyoming, CWD may possibly be a factor along with many other factors in causing population declines. Wildlife agencies report that habitat fragmentation, habitat loss, severe weather (droughts and bad winters), human disruption (oil exploration, real estate development), malnutrition, and predation are thought by biologists to have more influence on populations than the disease (all disease including EHD, parasites, and CWD).
  • CWD has continued to be found in new areas since the 1960s. This is a function of increased surveillance testing, natural animal movement, commercial transportation of animals, and the occasional spontaneous genetic mutation of the CWD prion. 
  • In spite of the expenditure of over $100,000,000 of public funding, and thousands of animals killed, none of the prevention, control, or eradication methods employed by the various Provinces and States since 1998 have been shown to be effective in either preventing the increased prevalence of CWD or the increased geographic distribution. 

The Cervid Herd Certification Program for CWD

In February 2000, The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the Cervid Farming Industry agreed that action needed to be undertaken to attempt to eradicate CWD from the farmed cervid herd in Canada. It was agreed that the goal was eradication, including depopulation of known infected herds with compensation paid to the owners of those herds. In many Provinces, postmortem testing of every dead cervid for CWD became mandatory, however this was the only approach to testing known at the time. The lack of a live test made movement of live cervids to other herds risky. To minimize those risks and concerns, CFIA worked with the industry and Provinces to design and implement the Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) Herd Certification Program (HCP).

Compliance with the HCP provides assurances to potential purchasers of animals that a purchase from a herd with the same level has the same risk of being infected with CWD. The level of assurance of CWD freedom depends on the length of time the herd has been enrolled in the program. Any owner of elk or deer who agrees to comply with the provisions of the HCP may enroll.

CWD status is determined on a herd basis by testing every cervid that dies, the absence of clinical signs, and the lack of exposure to CWD over a designated period of time. In addition, there are requirements for Identification, up to date Inventory maintenance, adequate facilities and biosecurity measures, all verified by an annual third- party inspection.

There are six levels in the certification program, from the entry level, Level E, to the highest level, Certified. A minimum of five years is necessary for an enrolled herd to reach the certified level.

The United States has also adopted an HCP, and most inter- jurisdictional movement of live cervids now requires the herd to be Certified Status, excepting animals going to immediate harvest.

The HCP requires much attention to detail, but all of it is simply good management, and worthwhile to facilitate access to all the best markets. Compliance with the HCP also reassures our friends and neighbours that we are responsible livestock managers.