I heard about Smokin Elk Ranch from a co-worker in a conversation about a herd of elk I noticed roaming a field while driving down Highway 2 past Morinville. I assumed that the herd had strayed from the Rockies while searching for food. Since this was my first time hearing about the ranch, I was naturally curious to buy a package of elk meat and try it out.
Smokin Elk Ranch is a family owned business that was started in 2003 by Bill Vischer, and his wife, Caroline. The farm occupies 280 acres and contains 210 free range elk - 82 bulls, 85 cows and 43 calves. Bill started his career in livestock as a dairy farmer after he took over a farm with his brothers from his father. He got out of the dairy business and moved with his family to Carbondale where his elk business started on a 77 acre farm. Building on the success of that ranch, he purchased a larger plot of land at his current location around Township Road 554 and Range Road 254. With product lines that include meat, processed elk antler and bulls with good genetics, the farm has operated successfully for twelve years.
Health-conscious eaters will appreciate that elk meat is very high in protein and is more richly flavoured than beef. Elk meat, or venison, has fewer calories, less fat, and less cholesterol than beef, chicken, lamb and turkey. It is also rich in minerals particularly iron and phosphorus, which shows in its rich dark colouring.
Elk are raised with no growth hormones or chemicals. They are predominantly grazers and eat most upland grasses such as broom and legumes like alfalfa. The lean nature of elk meats means it needs less time on lower heat. Customers stop in at the ranch for their supply of elk roasts, steaks, smokies, sausage rolls and other meat products. Since the animals are slaughtered and processed at a federal inspected facility in Barrhead, the meat is perfectly safe to eat.
Velvet antler is effective as an anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, immune stimulant, and pro-grown agent. Antlers are said to be the fastest growing membrane known, and it is this rapidly growing tissue that contains nutrients needed to improve some human health deficiencies. Did you know that bulls grow antlers back in 90 days and can grow upwards of 2 inches a day during peak times? If a human could grow bone that quickly, a broken leg would heal in one day!
Since elk grow and shed antlers every year, the cutting of the velvet antlers does not harm the animal. Typically, the antler is cut off near the base after it reaches about two-thirds of its potential full size before any significant calcification occurs. Harvesting the antler at the right time is crucial as it holds the most active ingredients within it at that time. The velvet covering is scraped off during processing and the rest of the antler is ground up into powder and packaged at a local processing facility in Sagundo. Royal Elk Products is a well-established local manufacturer of elk velvet antler capsules and bulk powder sold at the Smokin Elk Ranch.
and Excellent Genetics
There is significantly more profit generated from selling elk with good genetics. The animals are carefully selected to produce better elk to meet the needs of the velvet, hard antler and meat market. The size of a bull elk's antlers is an indication of his health and strength, and of his capacity to breed similarly hardy offspring. A large number of antler points and antler mass on a bull are usually indicative of superior genetics, good feed and maturity. Smokin Elk Ranch has achieved high standings in trophy elk competitions and with that; the ranch has increased its status among top breeders looking for excellent genetics. The ranch sells genetically superior elk to farms in the U.S. looking to improve the quality of their breeding herd, looking to grow heavier velvet or searching for trophy hunting stock.
Smokin Elk Ranch is a fun place to visit in the summer for your elk meat and to learn about elk. The Vischers host field trips from nearby schools, giving kids an insight into livestock farming. Stop by the ranch and try some elk meat – you’ll love it!
Smokin Elk can be reached at (780) 939-5659.
Did you know? Elk easily adapt to a wide range of temperatures by growing two entirely different coats. The summer coat is a thin, sleek layer of short hair that is the colour of copper. It is entirely replaced by the light brown and tan winter coat, which consists of two layers – thick, long guard hairs and a dense, wooly undercoat.