Jerry Potts used to make cheese. That's not too surprising considering that he lives in Wisconsin. But he sold the cheese factory and, together with his wife Bette, started looking for other things to do. They thought about raising horses or cattle but the more they studied that, the more they realized that there was no money to be made there.
Then they heard about elk farming. It was very appealing because it had four separate and existing markets: breeding stock, velvet, meat, and trophy hunt animals. Besides, the practical side, the sheer beauty and magnificence of the animal appealed to them. Now, 10 years later, they have 150 elk on their farm near Green Bay. Their son Scott and his wife Tammy are also in the elk business and also own 30 elk. The grandkids visit frequently and enjoy the animals.
Elk Hills Ranch (the Potts business) owns the great bull, Prince of Pride, who is known for his great velvet-producing abilities, but famous for his ability to pass that trait on to his offspring. They have sold breeding stock out of Prince of Pride to many others, who have subsequently won antler competitions with his offspring.
In addition to selling breed stock, they also sell the products from these great animals. They have found a niche market for elk meat in their area. They sell quarter pound patties made of ground elk to bars and restaurants. When they first started selling meat, they sold the choice cuts, the steaks. They were easy enough to sell, but they couldn't sell the trim meat fast enough to keep up with the demand for the prime cuts. They discovered that, if they ground the whole animal, it improved the taste of the ground and that there was a ready market for it.
They also sell velvet. Besides being distributors for Vital-Ex, which has a full line of velvet capsules, they also sell velvet slices. Jerry says that he has found a fairly strong demand for gift boxes and that they are purchased mostly by American Koreans to send back to their relatives living in Korea.
Jerry has some advice for those that are thinking of entering into the business. "Decide where you want to take your business, what product you want to sell. If you want to sell velvet or trophy animals, start with very high quality stock. I learned that from the dairy business. On the other hand, if you will be selling meat, you can get in much cheaper. There is good money to be earned from meat animals, but you don't need to buy the highest quality velvet animals for that."