If you want to start a deer farm, there is no greater teacher than experience. Deer farmers will tell you that there are a few things that you can only learn by getting stuck in. But this doesn’t mean that there aren’t also a few things you should know beforehand too.
So before you take the first few steps of starting a deer farm, make sure that you consider and find out as much about the following 9 factors as possible.
How to Start a Deer Farm – 9 Considerations
Before you take the idea of starting a deer farm any further, you must know all the local and regional regulations when it comes to the ownership, transportation, propagation, and sale of deer.
Whether you want to start a deer farm in Texas, Alabama, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, or any other state, just know that the regulations will vary on a state-by-state basis. Some states do not allow private ownership of certain deer at all, for example, while others require you to pay a fee or license to maintain a permit.
If you want to start a deer farm, you need a certain amount of startup capital depending on the scale of the farm as well as your goals. The good news is that some states offer grants and loans to help you get started.
Again, this will vary on a state-by-state basis, so make sure that you speak to your local department of agriculture.
It would be unwise to start a deer farm without a plan in place.
Deer farming can be broad, so you should at least have an idea of which subset of the industry you want to go down before you get specific and find out as much as you need to know. If possible, it’s a good idea to contact people who are already in the industry and ask them as many questions as possible.
You also want to think about the layout of your farm, including any pens, food plots, breeding areas, and handling facilities, which you will all likely need. Fencing is another important consideration, especially as deer are actively targeted by predators, which can cause significant monetary loss and spell the end of your farming operation.
Often overlooked but necessary are any plans for future expansion unless you plan to farm at a very small scale. Access to a reliable source of clean water is also often overlooked, though paramount for any deer farm too.
Deer Feed & Nutrition
Any successful deer farming operation must make sure that all the nutritional needs of their deer are met. This includes deer getting all the protein, energy, vitamins, and minerals they need to thrive.
As an aspiring deer farmer, you should consider taking soil samples and finding out as much information as you can about the nutritional value of the land you plan to farm on. This ensures that you can supplement your deers’ diet with just the right type and amount of minerals, protein and energy that your deer need.
Keep in mind that the nutritional requirements of deer also vary on a seasonal basis, such as the necessity of adding dry matter during the colder months, and by gestation, lactation, and antler growth. All these things must be considered if you want to start a deer farm.
Deer Behavior & Herd Structure
Deer are very social animals that travel in groups of herds that follow a structure. The herd is often led by a dominant male. Each herd can contain several females that take very good care of their young fawns. But when deer are farmed, the herd takes on a looser structure with the animals rising together, moving to the grazing area, grazing, and then all returning to their favorite spot.
As the behavior of wild deer and domesticated deer can vary, you should learn as much as possible about how the general characteristics and behavior of deer, as well as how they will behave in different environments.
Whether you’re planning on starting a small-scale or large-scale deer farming operation, it’s wise to have some form of deer handling facility in place. This is because you need a suitable area to hold and observe deer for transportation and health testing among other things.
Finding a Veterinarian
Deer farming isn’t as popular as other forms of farming, so it can be challenging to find a vet who has plenty of experience and knowledge of farm-raised deer – at least a vet who is nearby.
Either way, you should be aware of all the testing, de-worming practices, and emergency procedures that a deer may need to undergo should they become ill or injured. It would also be wise to have an understanding of the most common health and diseases that deer suffer from.
Buying stock is arguably one of the most important steps of any successful deer farming operation.
You might have to pay more, but you should only buy from the most reputable and established deer farmers, especially if you’re just starting out and therefore have little knowledge and experience of deer.
Whether you’re buying bucks/stags, does/hinds, or fawn/calves, you want to know as much as possible about the genetic and health history of any deer you are buying, as well as a few other important factors
A few guidelines to follow include:
- Bucks/Stags: Age and fertitility; whether fawns/calves have already been sired and how many
- Does/Hinds: Age and genetic background; guarantee of impregnation; birthing history; know if exposure was in a single sire or multi-sire setting
- Fawns/calves: Age you want to pull the fawn/calf from its mother; whether a health program has been implemented for bottle-raised babies
So you’ve decided that you definitely want to start a deer farm. Congratulations! The final step of the process is transporting the deer safely – first to your farm and then wherever you need to take your deer in the future.
For most trips, a cattle trailer will suffice. For longer journeys, an enclosed trailer with plenty of ventilation is a better option. As deer are quite anxious animals, transportation must be done with calmness, quiet, and care.
Starting a Deer Farm – Frequently Asked Questions
Is Deer Farming Profitable?
Deer farming can be a very profitable endeavor, especially as the farming of deer is relatively niche. This means that supply and competition are low.
Compared to cattle farming, which is typically considered as one of the most profitable types of livestock farming, deer eat less than cattle and need less care, especially in winter. Deer also mature quickly, can reproduce up to 20 years of age, and are less damaging to pasture.
Money can be made from breeding, meat and food, urine, antlers, hunting ranches, sales to other farms for genetic enhancements, and semen.
How Many Acres Do You Need for a Deer Farm?
To start a deer farm, it’s recommended that stocking rates generally not exceed 10 deer per acre of paddock, although lower stocking rates are preferred
Keep in mind that deer that are not tame do not like to be crowded and need more space. As deer are excellent jumpers, fencing needs to be at least 8 feet high too.
Are Deer Easy to Farm?
Deer farming isn’t without its challenges – just like farming any other animal has its own unique challenges. Deer are nervous, haven’t been widely domesticated, spook easily, and can jump very, very high.
Having said that, as long as you get the fundamentals right and have a well-thought-out plan in place from day one, deer farming should be no more challenging than farming other animals.
How Much Does it Cost to Start a Deer Farm?
If you want to start a deer farm, you need to consider the cost of fencing, gates, water and feed troughs, feed, any veterinary costs, transportation, and of course the stocking prices. Starting a deer farm on a small scale and growing from there can cost upwards of $20,000.