From: Deer Farmers' Library (www.deer-library.com)|
By now, we are all very aware of the negative consequences that CWD has brought to the deer and elk farming industry in North America. These include: loss of significant markets for velvet antler due to Korean ban on imports; restrictions (up to five years) on the inter-state and inter-provincial movement of cervids; de-population of elk farms; a significant loss of revenue to the industry; and an increased pressure by opponents of game farming to shut the industry down.
But what about the upsides of CWD? No, I'm not joking. I believe there may be some significant benefits and opportunities associated with the CWD "crisis."
First, however, let's look at a recent media release from the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) regarding CWD. [My observations and comments are in brackets].
Where has CWD been found?
[Some people believe CWD may exist in wild animals in other places, but the authorities simply haven't bothered to look/test for it. I feel that the general public lacks accurate information and believes CWD is pervasive among all wild deer and elk herds.]
Is CWD dangerous to humans?
[There are mixed messages here - there is no evidence that it is unsafe, but don't eat the animal if there is evidence of CWD. Other than sending in a brain for testing, how is a person supposed to know whether the animal has CWD?]
What precautions should hunters take?
[Problems are arising because butcher shops are refusing to process wild deer because of fears of CWD and issues related to disposal of offal.]
How can you tell if a deer has CWD?
[At early stages, deer and elk may have CWD and not exhibit any major symptoms. I understand that it takes 36 months for the disease to exhibit major symptoms and for the animal to die.]
What should I do if I see a deer that shows CWD symptoms?
[I find this to be an curious recommendation. Wouldn't it be better to kill the animal and have it tested, rather than having it flee into the wild while you are reporting it to the wildlife division. Do wildlife divisions have the resources to track down every deer or elk that hunters report may have the symptoms of CWD? I think not!]
Can I have deer venison tested?
[Can the average Joe deer hunter have the deer he shot in the wild tested for CWD prior to butchering and eating it? Some places such as Saskatchewan do test many hunter kills; other places don't have the resources. Also who pays for the testing? Are adequate lab resources available to do the testing?]
Is the meat safe to eat?
[I think many people still may be hesitant about eating wild deer meat that has NOT been tested for CWD.]
Benefits and opportunities
The other beneficiary of the CWD scare is the hunting preserve industry. If I am determined to go out and shoot my own deer this fall, animals from CWD and TB-monitored herds on well-run preserves are going to look a lot more attractive than wild stock. If I were a preserve owner, I would be ramping up my advertising and focusing on these benefits. Also, with the abundance of animals due to restrictions on inter-state movement of deer and elk, I would encourage preserves to offer more "economy" hunts. This would provide a viable and affordable option to those hunters that are concerned about CWD in the wild.
What are some of the other upsides and opportunities that I see from CWD?
1. It will eliminate the marginal operators that give the industry a bad image. People with small pens, poor feeding and health programs, and little knowledge, skills or interest to look after their animals properly will go out of business.
2. It is a great time to upgrade your genetics. With prices for quality breeding stock being so reasonable, why not get the best genetics possible? Also, look to the future. As the venison market develops, you may want to get animals that have bigger body weights.
3. Now is the time to get rid of your marginal animals. Sell them for meat. Any does/cows that don't produce offspring, have difficult births, over-mother, or are high-strung (see Article 4 below) should be sent to the slaughterhouse. Research done at the Agriculture Canada Research Station at Lacombe, Alberta has found that the meat of elk bulls and cows remains tender into old age.
4. With prices for breeding stock being so affordable, it is a good time to recruit new farmers into the industry. We believe deer and elk farming is a viable and sustainable agricultural pursuit. Now is a good time to get in. Your associations should be aggressively marketing this opportunity!
5. With the inter-state movement restrictions of cervids, the opportunities for semen sales and use of other reproductive technologies increase. There is now an incentive to undertake more research to increase our knowledge of these technologies. Advances here could reduce the need for movement of animals in the future, thus reducing risks of disease migrations, and increase the profitability of producers.
6. With lower animal prices, venison is now a more affordable meat that is competitive with other red meats. This should introduce venison to new consumers who hopefully will become addicted to this tasty and healthy alternative.
7. Lower animal prices have enabled some entrepreneurs to establish profitable businesses buying deer/elk at auctions and selling cost-competitive venison directly to consumers and at farmers' markets.
8. I believe that the CWD issue will encourage the development and implementation of better record-keeping systems and related regulations. Canadian provinces already have such inventory and trace-back systems in place. More U.S. states need to do so, and there needs to be some harmonization across jurisdictions.
9. The paranoia about CWD will result in more research and the eventual finding of a live animal test. What we learn about CWD will have significant implications for other related animal and human diseases as well.
10. With fears continuing about CWD in the wild for the next few years, there will be a significant reduction in the number of people going deer and elk hunting. This will be especially true for out-of-state hunters concerned about transporting carcasses and contributing to the spread of disease. This, in turn, will see drastic reductions in revenues of state Fish and Wildlife Departments. Because these Departments rely on these revenues, there will be staff reductions and loss of influence of these agencies on public policy making regarding deer and elk.
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