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Elk Industry Defense Affidavit

I, Dr. Jeremy C. Haigh, swear and/or affirm the following is a true statement.

I am a veterinarian, qualified with a Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine & Surgery at the University of Glasgow, Scotland in 1965. I subsequently obtained a Master of Science degree at the University of Saskatchewan in 1982, with a thesis titled "Reproductive Seasonality of Male Wapiti." I became a member of the American College of Zoological Medicine (a college of specialist who deals with wildlife and zoo animal medicine) in 1984. In 1992 I was elected as a fellow of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (UK) "for meritorious contributions to learning". I have been employed on the faculty of the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan since 1975.

I have been president of the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians (1988-89) and the American College of Zoological Medicine (1989-91). I have served on the boards of the Saskatchewan Game Farmers Association, the Saskatoon Regional Zoological Society (founding secretary 1976-1980, president 1981-84). I was a founding member of the Saskatchewan Game Farmers Association and helped formulate codes of conduct and regulations related to the industry in this province. As a board member of president of these associations I have been actively engaged in the development of by-laws, constitutions and mission statements.

I have provided expert opinion on the subject of wapiti (elk) and deer ranching, either in writing, or in personal appearances in court or state committee hearings, in the states of "Colorado, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington and as well as in Canada, particularly to the Expert Committee on Animal Welfare.

I have published over 300 scientific papers, book chapters, technical and magazine articles. More than half of these are related to the farming and ranching of deer species. I was co-editor a book titled "Chemical Immobilization of North American Wildlife in 1983" and senior author of the book "Farming Wapiti and Red Deer" published in 1993 by Mosby Year Book Inc. I have made numerous presentations related to wildlife medicine and game farming & ranching at international meetings on five continents. A copy of my curriculum vitae is enclosed.

I have carried out consultative research into deer science in Canada, New Zealand and Australia and was the pioneer of the techniques used today in the artificial breeding (AI) of wapiti, red deer and white-tailed deer. In 1980 and 1981 I was responsible for the gathering, quarantine and air shipment of a herd of elk to New Zealand. This was the first export of elk to New Zealand since the shipment of a group of animals donated by President Roosevelt in 1905.

For ten years I practiced veterinary medicine in Kenya. For the last five years of these I was in private practice and developed an expertise in wildlife and game ranching. Together with my wife I am an equal partner in an elk farming enterprise. This is Marimba Farm Inc., which we started in 1985. We own about one hundred of elk and for ten years also owned a small group (10-15) of white-tail and mule deer. Numbers fluctuated with sales and births.

Concerning Fencing and Animal Escapes and Ingress

With proper fencing farmers and ranchers can control both escapes and ingress of wild (and publicly owned) deer. In Michigan this is an important issue for livestock owners in light of the current problems with tuberculosis ( TB ). I have discussed the matter of the regulation of fencing standards below.

With respect to the ranching and farming of cervid (deer) species, based upon extensive experience with red deer, wapiti, white-tailed and mule deer, caribou and reindeer and axis deer I believe that with proper fencing and management, and a lack of vandalism, escape of animals is virtually impossible.

Escapes have indeed been documented, but are rare. They can be made even rarer if proper fencing standards are employed. Furthermore, once animals have become established in a farm situation they usually consider the farm as their home range & can almost always be led back inside the fence with a bucket of feed.

I have consulted professionally about escapes on a few (less than six) occasions. In each instance I have advised that a conservative approach be used so that animals can be enticed to return with grain. I have never had to use drugs of darting equipment to catch an escaped elk or deer.

On a personal level, at no time in the almost 15 years that I have been farming elk and deer have we had an escape of animals that jumped over the fence of broken through it. On two occasions I mistakenly left the gates open. Both times elk walked out on neighboring land. In the first instance the animals returned without baiting within 15 minutes. On the other occasion we led the animals back in from a field of green oats by using a bucket of grain.

Elk and deer farmers in Saskatchewan and Alberta use either pressure treated wooden post or metal (often used drill stem) for fence, brace and corner construction. Most of our own perimeter fencing is constructed of a six foot three inch (6'3") woven topped off with two strands of high tensile (HT) wire to a height of seven feet (7'). When fencing materials of 7'6" and 8' heights became available we used these for fencing new land. Our white-tailed and mule deer were held behind the seven-foot fence. However, we have occasionally had to deal with the inconvenience of ingress of white-tailed deer over the 7' perimeter and the industry standard for this species in most of Canada is an 8' fence topped off to 9' or even 10' with HT wire.

In one area of our farm there is a potential for snow drifting. Banks sometimes reach a height of five feet. We have ensured that vegetation is cleared from these areas and no animals have ever attempted to leave the property.

Along several fences we have cleared trees in order to prevent and deadfall from lying across the fence and creating possible exit sites.

Concerning Genetic Pollution Following Escapes

If farming and ranching of deer is restricted to wapiti and white-tailed deer in Michigan, then there is no issue. Both species are native.

Other deer that might escape (axis, caribou etc.) are unable to hybridize with native deer in Michigan, with the two exceptions. These are mule deer and the European red deer. Mule deer can hybridize with white-tailed deer. Mule deer are also highly susceptible to meningeal worm infection, and are unlikely to do well in the state. If they are farmed special techniques (which do exist) would be required to prevent this disease.

The question of so-called genetic pollution of wild wapiti following possible escapes of farmed red deer is controversial.

An often quoted model from Colorado is derived from a white paper prepared several years ago by a group that was openly against game ranching. Computer models are only as good as the data entered into them.

Three facts need to be considered. They relate to dominance, escapes & survival.

The first is that the statement that "red deer stags are generally considered dominant over elks bulls." This statement derives form observations at the Invermay Agricultural Research Station in New Zealand. In "Farming Wapiti Red Deer" we (Haigh and Hudson 1993) cite the experience at the Invermay in New Zealand. Animals were maintained in small (5-20 acre) paddocks & it was noticed that red deer stags in this situation could dominate wapiti & successfully compete for mating opportunities. The exact opposite has been observed in the wild in New Zealand, with wapiti stags being dominate (Anderson 1996). The latter scenario is the more likely if a red deer were to escape.

When Dr. V. Geist (a well-known opponent of deer farming) quotes publications that state that "bull elk will be the chief perpetrators of any hybridization...." He is in fact stating that the Colorado model is incorrect. That model was based upon breeding by red deer stags to the exclusion of wapiti. If NZ experience of free-ranging animals is correct the number of hybrids will be greatly reduced, as each female can only produce a limited number of offspring, in contrast to the potential for a male to serve many females. Furthermore, if the hypothetical matings were to occur as elk bulls over red hinds, there would be a reduced calf survival simply due to the larger calves that have the potential to create physical problems at parturition, killing not only the calves, but their red deer dams.

The harsh winter conditions in Michigan place a premium on body size for survival. The classic North American examples are the moose and the white-tailed deer. Both species fit Bergman's rule which states that the further north an animal lives, the larger it must be. The reason is that body mass & surface area are related in such a way that relative heat loss is less in the larger animal as it has a proportionally smaller surface area. The wapiti & red deer are examples of an animal of the same species in which the red deer would have a tough time in the extremes of winter, if it had to forage in the wild as opposed to being fed on farm, because it would lose more heat. Not only would the red deer lose more heat because of its body mass/surface area ratio but it has much shorter legs than the wapiti. It would therefore have more difficulty traveling in deep snow & be less able to forage for winter food. If this sort of information were factored into the computer model it would no doubt substantially change the outcome.

Concerning Animal Identification

There are published concerns about the ability to properly identify privately owned wildlife. These appear to be voiced because of an alleged potential increase in poaching. I believe that these fears have been unfounded and that there is no evidence to support the notion of an increase in poaching related to the private ownership of cervids. Based upon experience in Canada I believe that it is possible to identify animals in several ways to deter poaching.

In most jurisdictions in Canada and the USA owners of cervids are required to keep accurate records inventories and to provide annual census figures to government departments concerned with such livestock. In Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Manitoba the departments of agriculture are the agencies that govern the issuing of licenses and ear tags for individual animal identification. These records include data on births, deaths, sales and purchases. Animals are identified as to sex and year birth, and each farm carries a unique registration code that is marked on the tags. This means that every animal is uniquely identified for its entire like. If an animal is moved to a new owner or property this unique tag is not altered. Government inspectors have power to examine records upon request. The unique tags also provide positive identification in the event that an animal goes to slaughter or to a diagnostic laboratory for necropsy.

The North American Elk Breeders Association and North American Deer Farmers Association (white-tailed registry) and others have registration programs in place that involve the use of DNA technology for the identification of individual animals and parentage confirmation.

Concerning Domestication

The enclosed scientific article titled "Exploitation and Domestication of Deer" was published in the international journal "Anthrozoos". It provides three definitions of what constitutes a domestic animal. The most telling, and internationally recognized of these, was developed by the General Assembly of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature in 1994. It reads as follows:

A domesticated population is: a population that is adapted to life in close association with and to the advantage of humans, and whose entire life cycle is carried out under human management...

Animals in large preserves, such as fenced national parks, lie somewhere between the so-called free-ranging situation and the domestic one. Generally, animals in preserves are under no sort of handling control, and are allowed to breed freely, with little or no selection of breeding groups by managers. Such preserves may not have more than a single perimeter fence. The model by Hudson, referred to in the article on Exploitation and Domestication of Deer, shows how the continuum is structured.

Concerning Regulations

I have been informed that in 1994 captive cervidae were defined as LIVESTOCK in the Animal Industry Act of the State of Michigan. As such, there appears to be no logic in having the DNR involved in any part of regulations concerning this industry.

I believe that it is unnecessary and somewhat illogical to regulate captive cervidae production operations differently from other livestock operations, except insofar as fine details are concerned. Fencing requirements for deer, or milk hygiene needs for dairy farmers would be examples of such details.

It is my belief that departments of agriculture (including The Michigan Department of Agriculture - MDA ), are better suited to regulate this industry rather than are Natural Resources departments because they deal with livestock, not wildlife, behind fences. It is a recognized fact that some DNR departments in North America, have difficulty accepting the concept that farmed cervids are indeed livestock.

Departments of Agriculture, because they have a long-standing relationship with farmers and ranchers, are better placed to apply rules and regulations, and may in fact be much better guardians of the interest of the government in matters relating to the industry and the public than are DNRs, whose focus is very different.

Concerning Poaching

I believe that published predictions of increased poaching made be enforcement agencies and persons opposed to the private ownership of cervids have not been borne out by actual events. Poaching of wild cervids in the public domain remains a problem but no evidence has been published that would suggest that farming or ranching of deer in any way effects this fact. I believe that it is likely that increased awareness and the presence of deer farms on the landscape, increases vigilance, especially among the cervid owners themselves, and can act as a deterrent to poachers. The accurate tracking of commercially produced carcasses means that farmed venison can be identified.

Concerning Health and Disease

As with all livestock there are diseases of concern. I have been actively engaged in the dissemination of information concerning diseases in several forums. Audiences have included practicing veterinarians, farmers, and ranchers, and state and federal officials. I was instrumental in alerting federal veterinarians on the shortcomings of tuberculosis testing of cervids as carried out by the USDA and Agriculture Canada up until 1990 and 1988 respectively.

I have emphasized, both in writing and at many seminars and meetings, that good management, good record keeping and a herd health approach can go a long way to preventing disease and improving health in farmed cervids.

There is no published evidence to suggest that farmed deer are in any way more susceptible to disease than their wild counterparts, when maintained at similar population densities, although poor management by farmers (or wildlife managers) can lead to disease.

If a disease is discovered in any form of animal, then its control is most likely to be possible in a farm/ranch situation where fencing and handling facilities are routinely available. Testing, treatment and/or eradication are all possible under such circumstances, where they may be difficult, exceeding costly in time and money, or almost impossible in wild populations or large preserves where individual animal handling is not practical. An important issue facing all residents of Michigan at present is the matter of bovine tuberculosis (TB) that exists in the wild white-tailed deer population in the state. This has been already spilled over into cattle herds, and also at least one captive cervid herd. Faced with this problem the Michigan DNR have implemented a long-term plan to attempt to control the situation and eradicate the disease. The most optimistic projection is that control may be achieved by about ten years from now.

Control of TB in captive cervids, where repeated testing under the jurisdiction of the USDA/APHIS and the State Veterinarian is possible in a controlled environment, where suitable handling systems and fencing are in use, should be possible in a shorter time than that.

Testing, treatment and/or eradication of diseases are all currently controlled by the MDA for other species, and they have mechanisms in place which can be applied to farmed cervids.

It is self-evident that a cooperative approach between livestock owners and MDA is more likely to be successful under these circumstances than a confrontational approach involving law enforcement investigations conducted by DNR.

Concerning a Link Between Captive Cervids and the Management of Free-Ranging Deer

There are links between what are two segments of a continuum. Much research on free-ranging cervids has benefited captive herds, and vise-versa. In a well-known study by Dr. Harry Jacobson of white-tailed deer in Mississippi it was determined that the practice of culling "spike" bucks because of smaller antler size was unjustified. He showed that small antlers in the first year of life were linked to date of birth rather than inferior genetic make-up. Work on contraception in captive deer has shown that in some circumstances it has the potential to benefit the management of overabundant wild deer populations. Studies of reproduction in wapiti have shown that spike bulls are fertile, and have shown for how long a period animals of either sex may be able to breed successfully. Many techniques for capture of animals were developed in captive situations and have since been applied to wild stock.

One of the major areas of benefit to wild deer populations has occurred in respect to endangered deer species. The flagship example is the rehabilitation of the Pere David's deer in China. These animals were once extinct in the wild. After almost a century of captivity in parks and zoos, mainly in the United Kingdom, they have recently been returned in China where they are allowed to roam free. Detailed work on reproductive systems, which has gone as far as reproductive technology including artificial insemination and embryo transfer, has been applied between species and used, for instance, in the endangered Eld's deer of Southeast Asia. The Smithsonian Institute has been involved in this work.

In New Zealand there is a problem with tuberculosis (TB) in both wild and captive deer. The disease is spread by other wild animals, principally the brush-tailed possum, and is exceedingly difficult to control. There is more than one active research program in which captive deer are used to aid in investigations of the disease as it affects wild populations.

A captive herd of elk has been maintained at Sybille, Wyoming, for many years. One of the principal studies concerned the disease brucellosis, which affects the free-ranging herd in Jackson Hole.

Concerning the Cervid Industry as a Business

There is no doubt that the global cervid industry has grown markedly in the last 25 years. Most of the early resurgence of this industry in the late 20th century occurred in New Zealand and the UK, but in the last 15 years there has been a rapid expansion in North America. D. E. Lantz of the US Biological Survey recorded 15 or so ranches in 1908 and 1910. Accurate census figures from December 1997 indicate that there were 1667 cervid farms, farming 98,651 deer in Canada alone ( Haigh & Thorleifson, 1998, see paper for details ). Thorleifson, former executive director of the Canadian Venison Council, estimates that this number had grown to an estimated 1850 farms as of March 2000. The total dollar value (Canadian dollars) of the combined livestock and facilities for this industry is approximately $800 million (at an exchange of 1.4, this amounts to $571 million US).

Figures supplied to me by Barbara Ramsey-Fox, executive director of the North American Deer Farmers Association ( NADeFA ) indicate that among the membership of that organization, the total number of deer, of six main species, and a few others, is 82,868 animals. The estimated value of these stock, excluding facilities, is $75,532,250. In addition she estimates that there are possibly 8000 more properties in the USA in which white-tailed deer are privately held.

There is one other national organization that deals with farmed and ranched cervids. This is the North American Elk Breeders Association (NAEBA). They are unable to supply accurate census figures, as the degree of inventory control varies widely among various states in the USA. They estimate that the total North American captive elk (wapiti) herd is about 170,000 animals. Of this number, the estimate for Canada is 60,000. The estimate for the United States is 110,000. As of March of 2000, NAEBA had over 55,000 elk in its registry system.

Concerning Industry Makeup

The cervid industry can be artificially broken down into several segments, but all are part of a continuum. They can be broadly categorized as Tourism, Farming, and Ranching (either for velvet or meat), and the Hunt Ranch industry. Several farmers of my acquaintance may use two, or even more, as part of their businesses enterprise.

In New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Canada there are properties where deer can be viewed close up and where admission fees are charged. These operations, or part of operations, are educational and entertaining, and are one arm of the tourism industry. I have seen a joint farming and tourism operation in Montana.

In the same three foreign countries there are farms and ranches that cater to either or both the venison and velvet trades, as well as hunt ranching. Some are adjacent to, and some physically separate from, the farm where fee hunting takes place. Often hunt farms offer accommodation, and can therefore be classified as a specialized form of holiday farm.


I submit this affidavit on behalf of The Michigan Deer and Elk Farmers Association.

I am available to answer your questions concerning this affidavit and about the industry.

Signed: Dr. J. C. Haigh BVMS, MSc, FRCVS.,
Site 504, PO Box 1, R.R. #5
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Canada S7K 3J8
TEL / FAX 306-373-4241



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