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November 1st: Torsten Jacobi, CEO of Creative Weblogging, joins host Anita Campbell. Sponsored by Six Disciplines. Show details.
Thursday, January 01, 2004
Deer Farming is a Growing Business
Just when you think that small farms are disappearing in many parts of the developed world, replaced by large agribusiness, along comes a reminder of the almost-trendy kinds of farming that are growing at a fast clip. Deer farming is among those.

Deer farming, you say? Even in the United States, where the only time these animals seem to make the front page is in reports of deer overpopulation?

Yes, deer farming.

And deer farms are not just in the United States. They also thrive in Canada, New Zealand, Norway, Australia, China, the U. K., Sweden, Korea, Russia, Vietnam, and other parts of the world.

Related to deer farming is elk farming, reindeer farming, and even antelope farming (popular in Texas).

Deer farms have been around for centuries. However, real growth into an industry has occurred only in the last 20 years.

A recent article in Ohio Business magazine points out the extent of deer farms in just one state -- Ohio -- alone (the article is not online and only available in the December 2003 print edition). It says Ohio has "some 500 deer farms scattered throughout the state, with an estimated population of at least 6,000 deer." The article profiles a husband-and-wife entrepreneur team who started a deer farm 10 years ago and work at it part-time, while holding down full-time jobs.

People get involved in deer farming in part because they enjoy being around deer and the lifestyle associated with raising them. There is also a profit motive for most farmers. Deer can be raised as livestock for food. They can be raised for hunting preserves. They can be raised for "velvet antler" which is prized in Asia as a food supplement. Last, but not least, they are raised for breeding purposes, in much the same way horses are put out to stud for a fee. A champion buck can be worth $1 million (USD).

Many issues face this nascent industry as it grows. Among them: it can be capital intensive (e.g., breeding stock); production standards are non-existent; many producers are small with farms that are part-time or hobbies.

Another important issue is the existence of chronic wasting disease (CWD) among deer. CWD is a disease in the same family as mad cow disease. However, for a number of years now surveillance programs have been in place in many U.S. states to test entire farm herds for CWD once a year. In some ways, deer farms may be better protected than U.S. beef herds, of which only a small percentage of the herds are tested.

For more information about deer farming visit the following sites:

  • Deer Farmers' Information Network contains a large number of articles about deer farming worldwide.

  • DeerFarms.com has a directory of deer and elk farming associations, along with listings of farms and deer for sale.

  • North American Deer Farmers Association contains background information about deer farming, and also serves as a clearinghouse for information about chronic wasting disease (CWD). Also publishes The North American Deer Farmer Magazine.

  • Deer farms, along with elk farms, reindeer farms, antelope farms (and even goat, alpaca and llama farms) are a trendy kind of small business. Farmers can start out small while still holding down a full-time job elsewhere. The herds require much less space than traditional livestock, and much less attention. In many ways deer farms are the perfect moonlighting business. But the deer farming industry is still in a fragile state. It has a ways to go before it becomes a well-established industry with large sustainable markets for its products.

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