Elk Genetic Improvement

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A Mini Review Note:

Genetic evaluation of performance in captured elk: Is there a need ?

Elk captured for farming are providing an alternative and viable enterprize to livestock sector through their multiple and specialty products. As they are put to market driven production situation away from their natural habitat, they are bound to be subjected to artificial selection towards either desirable or undesirable direction depending upon the emphasis given to it during the selection of the breeding stock. In order to enable the producers to select their breeding stock for improving the economically important metric traits, genetic evaluation based on the knowledge of their genetic and phenotypic parameters will be required.

To date, there is only one report of genetic parameter estimation for elk anter yield in Canada showing moderate heritability of 0.27 0.03 and the repeatability ranging from 0.31 0.02 to 0.35 0.03 depending on the method of analysis (animal model) used (Wang et al. 1999). This study showed that antler yield is expected to respond to selection. There is an another study reported for growth and reproduction traits in red deer in upland Scotland (McManus and Hamilton, 1991), and another one for liveweight traits in Newzealand (Rapley, 1990). The heritability and genetic correlation estimation reported in the former showed promising results for growth traits such as weaning weight and post-weaning traits in terms of their usefulness in selection programs, while the parameters estimated in Newzealand were somewhat different from the former. And, there is no such study reported from North American elk. Clearly, there is a need for North American producers to keep upto date records of herd pedigree and peformance for genetic evaluation to enable them to make their selection decisions in their herds.

For further inquires on this issue, please contact: info@elkgenetics.20m.com.


MacManus, C.M. and Hamilton, W.J. 1991. Estimation of genetic and phenotypic parameters for growth and reproductive traits for red deer on an upland farm. Anim. Prod. 53: 227-235.

Rapley, C.M. 1990. Genetic parameters of liveweight traits of red deer in New Zealand. Proc. 8th Conf. Aus. Assoc. Anim. Breed. Genet. pp. 501-507.

Wang, Z., Yang, R.-C., Goonewardene, L.A. and Huedepohl. 1999. Genetic analysis of velvet antler yield in farmed elk (Cervus elaphus). Can. J. Anim. Sci. 79: 569571.