SEDALIA — Debbie, Mike and Prince are not typical pets. The animals can weigh between 500 and 1,300 pounds.
On a good day, Debbie will let her owners get close enough for a scratch behind the ears, but Prince and Mike rule the farm outside of Sedalia where Robert and Dorothy Poort raise elk.
"Come on girl, come on," shouted Robert as he brought Debbie a bucket of grain.
"She was one of our first ones," Dorothy said of their friendliest elk, Debbie.
When the Poorts began raising elk, Debbie would greet Robert with a kiss every morning.
The couple visited the Dakotas in the 1970s and fell in love with these giant creatures.
"Well, I've always liked elk," Robert said. "I just got the fever, so I said, 'I'm going home to start building fence.'"
The Poorts purchased three elk, and now, years later, they have 36.
"It just kept growing and growing," Robert said.
The Poorts have had more than 60 elk on their farm at one time, along with the cattle that they still farm.
"They have all been raised here now, so when they get out they are lost, they want back in," Robert said.
The elk are used for breeding, and their antlers can be turned into lamps, card holders and salt-and-pepper shakers. But for the Poorts, elk is their meat of choice.
"We haven't butchered a hog or beef in five years," Robert said. "We eat strictly elk meat."
Dorothy said the meat has very little fat and no cholesterol, which she says makes it better than beef.
"There is a pretty good market for it because it's very healthy for you," Dorothy said.
Their elk just finished their rut at the beginning of the month, and their bugles could be heard all day and night.
"The neighbors for a mile can hear it," Dorothy said.
Robert said he has cows that will occasionally bugle along with the elk.
Males will begin to shed their antlers in March and have a new set just in time for when the babies are born in June.
Dorothy said she never would have dreamed they would own so many, but, "as long as we're able," they will continue to raise elk.