Wild-n-Wooly Acres - WWA is owned and operated by Pat and Jackie Cooper and his parents, Gary and MaryAnne. In 1981, Pat and Gary began the discussion of the wonders of raising elk. Jackie and MaryAnne were blissfully unaware at what lay ahead! Pat, still in high school, was extremely excited when they purchased 12 elk from out west in 1983. Even at that time, Gary and Pat were well aware of the role quality genetics would play in the industry. Jackie and MaryAnne were still enjoyably going about their lives. MaryAnne, a registered nurse, was raising the children and overseeing the reconstruction of the 1890 farmhouse. She was also busy watching over the angora goats currently at the farm. Jackie was still just blissfully unaware. A crude outdoor handling facility was built to handle the newly acquired animals. Many war stories can be told about elk jumping over the wooden outdoor chute, injuries occurring (to both people and animals) and the thousands of hours of labor spent on just 12 animals! At this point, a name was needed for the farm. Combining the wooly angora goats with the then "wild" elk, the name Wild-n-Wooly Acres was born. In 1987, Pat left his career as an electrician to focus on the elk. Dale Swickard, Wild-n-Wooly's best asset, was soon hired to participate in the growing venture. Gary spent countless hours researching the medicinal qualities of elk velvet while running a busy medical practice. In 1989 a new handling facility was built to better handle the animals, more fencing was established, and the elk herd grew.
In the early 90's Pat and Gary had established quite a network of other elk enthusiasts. Through this extensive network, they met Dr. Mike Bringans and Sir Tim Wallis. This group saw the potential of raising Russian elk, which are prized for their quality dark velvet. Pat and Gary soon journeyed over to Russia with Mike and Tim to investigate the possibilities. Even though Mike was "drugged" via a drink and his room ransacked, and even though Tim had a large sum of money stolen (he eventually got most of it back which is no small feat in the Russian court system), and even though they were all sick of drinking vodka and eating dill, they thought it would be a great idea to start a herd in Russia. After a few more trips over there, they, along with the Baumans of Canada, purchased a farm. Pat went and spent 3 months in Russia developing the farm. MaryAnne kept the home fires burning and thankfully dispersed the angora goat herd. Jackie continued focusing on her nursing degree and maintaining the books at the farm. Dale kept the herd well managed. And the elk herd grew.
After Pat's 3 months in Russia, it was quite evident that it was very dangerous over there after the fall of communism. Business transactions were very difficult, there was a murder of a Russian related to the elk farm, and even the Koreans stopped coming to buy the prized velvet due to the dangers. While continuing to be very active and supportive of NAEBA, Pat and Gary again began focusing on their US herd. First on the agenda was semen. Seeing the potential for genetic advantages, Pat and Gary were the first US facility to employ artificial insemination. This fit nicely into their concise breeding program. Shortly thereafter, Wild-n-Wooly was the first to develop a USDA approved semen-processing lab. Not only did this allow for shipping semen globally, it also provided the customer assurance that their semen was processed and stored in a controlled clean environment. As a result, Wild-n-Wooly's herd was even better developed to produce quality genetics. And the elk herd grew.
Pat and Gary also saw the advantage of opening the Korean market to the North American velvet. Through their many travels, they forged business relationships with Korean buyers. Pat soon began traveling to Korea to further cement these contacts. The first buyer spent 3 months at Wild-n-Wooly Acres. The velvet had to be inspected and graded piece by piece and recorded all by hand. Wild-n-Wooly's figures had to match with the buyer's figures and at times, the language was a huge barrier! Then it was handled again for shipment. They were all very glad to see that first shipment completed! Today, a computerized grading system is in place that has drastically cut down on labor and provides increased accuracy. Every year, Wild-n-Wooly welcomes foreign buyers to their farm. The culture is very different from the US and it has been an enjoyable and, at times, exasperating learning experience for all involved. The most thought provoking moment came when Wild-n-Wooly, in tiny Hopedale, Ohio had a Korean buying velvet, a South African hauling the velvet, and a Canadian interpreter!
Today, after a learning curve and much hard work, Wild-n-Wooly is proud of their 500+ head of elk on their 2000-acre farm in Hopedale, Ohio. Pat and Gary continue to forge ahead successfully with in-vitro fertilization and embryo transfers. Jackie, no longer blissfully unaware, has left her profession as a registered nurse to work full time at Wild-n-Wooly Acres. MaryAnne continues to keep everyone sane, and Dale remains key in maintaining Wild-n-Wooly's genetically superior herd. Wild-n-Wooly Acres persist in their commitment to provide the industry with further proven predictable genetics, and are looking forward to an even more exciting future.