Anyone who can raise cattle or other livestock can raise deer, and deer farming would be a good hobby for farmers.
If you are wondering Commercial deer farming is profitable or not?
Or how commercial deer farming is different from the other livestock farming?
Then, this article is especially for you.
Deer are usually more profitable than traditional farm animals because deer consume less fodder than cattle and are less damaging for pasture.
Deer farming is easy they mature very quickly need less care, especially in winter, freeing up time for other activities.
Why you should choose Commercial Deer Farming?
People get involved in deer farming in part because they enjoy being around deer and the lifestyle associated with raising them but there is also a profit motive because of many reasons such as:
- Deer meat is very tasty and delicious. It has a great demand and high rate throughout the world.
- Their meat is a viable alternative to beef for consumers who want variety or lower fat intake.
- 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.
- They are raised for breeding purposes, in much the same way horses are put out to stud for a fee.
- Diseases are less in deer than other livestock animals. By raising deer commercially, you can make a sustainable income and employment source.
- The skin of the deer is very precious. Rich people use the skin for decorating their house.
Feeding of Deer
Deer are very selective for food. They seek out the highly appetizing food in preference to the food of medium or low palatability.
On average wild deer eats all types of plants that are available near their living location. But for domestic rearing, they need proper nutrition and a balanced diet feed.
On average a deer of 100 pounds body weight eat about 5 to 8 pounds feed daily.
Their consumption of food is influenced considerably by the seasons: maximum food intake occurs during the spring when plants generally have their highest protein content, and minimum intake during the winter when food is scarce.
During the rut season, male deer ingest little or no food.
Deer can digest large quantities of high fiber feed, thanks to gut micro-organisms. Even if digestion is incomplete, they still obtain sufficient energy if the range is in good condition.
If you have a range with high carrying capacity throughout the year then there is no real need for supplementary feeding.
In feeding operations, consideration should be given to the growth pattern, efficiency of food utilization for meat production, and the need for maximum velvet production and reproductive performance.
During summer and autumn, lactating females require a high food intake to maintain lactation and body weight for mating.
Good pasture is also a requirement of young deer for rapid weight gains. Adult males should be kept at peak body weight in preparation for mating.
Many types and mixtures of supplementary feed are fed to red and fallow deer on farms and some selected examples are given here.
- Only good quality hay, such as lucerne hay, should be provided, as hay is difficult for deer to digest.
- Corns are a preferred food, and as they are a good source of energy, they are a suitable feed supplement.
- Grain can be fed to good advantage, but too much causes acidosis and tympany
- Chestnuts, oats, maize, potatoes, sesame and sunflower seeds, and root crops.
Deer take shelter in the field or under the tree as their living place; they don’t need specific housing in normal.
But the deer must need protection from adverse weather conditions and other harmful animals. So, you have to make a fence for deer with their housing.
Especially deer needs house and shelter in winter and rainy season. The good house protects them from cold and rainwater during those seasons.
Housing is also very important for babies and pregnant deer. Because they need extra care
Make a fence about 2 meters high from the ground. This will keep your deer injury free because they always try to escape from inside the fence.
Always use a suitable mesh without any dangerous projection. It would be better if the mesh becomes covered with material like hessian.
Before constructing house and shelter for deer keep in mind some important facts which are described below:
- Deer always like to live in a small group.
- Make separate shelters for various groups.
- Make grazing place near their shelter. It would be better if the grazing place become inside the shelter.
- Be sure about the full availability of food for deer inside the shelter.
- Deer always like the open and free place. So, make the house and shelter in an open place.
- Make sure that the place is free from all types of wild animals.
- Don’t keep your other domestic animals like goat, sheep, cow, etc. with deer.
- The place will be crowded and noise-free.
- Prevent the entrance of unknown people.
- Keep different aged deer separately.
Rearing and Weaning of Youngstock
Deer calves will generally wean themselves within 4–6 months, but they may continue to suckle from their mother as yearlings if not weaned.
Weaning should preferably take place prior to the mating season because this allows the farmer to concentrate on training the young deer by yarding, herding and feeding before they are disturbed by mating groups.
As young deer are prone to fall into holes, ponds and the like, paddocks containing these hazards should be avoided for fawning.
Too much cover and particularly swampy areas should be avoided as it will be difficult to know under those circumstances exactly how many fawns were lost after birth.
Deer are very delicate animal. The most important problem associated with capturing deer is stress, which often results in post-capture myopathy and death.
The following methods are used for capturing deer in commercial deer farming:
- Chasing: This results in a few injuries and high survival rate but is labor-intensive
- Noosing: This is economical and easy, with a high capture but low survival rate
- Net-catching: Gives a better survival rate than noosing, but requires much care
- Trapping: With this method the survival rate is high but it requires much manpower
It is therefore important to make every effort to prevent this from occurring. The following approaches will reduce stress:
- You should refrain from chemically immobilizing a deer which has been chased too long or too far;
- If the drug Fentanyl is used, administer an antidote rapidly
- You should blindfold or hood a captured deer to calm it; this also protects the face
- If a deer is to be moved from the point of capture under a helicopter, enclose it entirely in a large bag
- You should place deer in a darkened, well-ventilated truck for road transport
- After capture, hold deer in a darkened shed for 1 – 2 days, feed and water them, and preferably release them at dusk.
Selection of breed for commercial deer farming
If you are thinking about commercial deer farming then you should firstly select the breed of deer which you want to rear at your farm.
There are various types of deer breeds available around the world. Every deer breeds have special habits, characteristics, color, body size, and feeding habits.
Some breeds of deer are giant-sized and some are very small. Some are of white, red, black, etc. colored and some are of mixed colored. Some deer breeds are very highly meat productive.
The following deer species are now being farmed in various parts of the world:
- Red deer (maral)
- Wapiti or elk
- Fallow deer
- Musk deer
- Rusa deer
Now we will describe each breed in some detail.
Red deer (maral)
Red deer (maral) is very suitable for farming and very popular to the farmer because they require little care and management for domestic farming.
This breed is also suitable for commercial deer farming because their food to meat converting rate and meat quality become very high.
In summer the general color is a glossy reddish-brown and in winter it is a drab grey-brown. The rump patch is yellowish-brown in both sexes
Adult Weight of the Stag: 95 kg (Scotland) to 300 kg (E. Europe).
Habitat: Red deer prefer open, grassy glades in the forest, but frequently use woody cover.
Food Habits: Grasses, forbs, and herbs are the preferred food, but in winter browsing of twigs is resorted to. Leaf browsing occurs in spring and summer.
Rutting Season: September-October
Gestation Period: 233 days.
Sexual Maturity of the Female: 1½ – 2½ years.
Length of Oestrus Cycle: 18.2 days.
Number of Offspring: One, rarely twin
Wapiti or elk
Wapiti or elk is suitable for commercial farming and more profitable than traditional livestock farming.
Wapiti or elk has a wide range in North America and Asia and also have been introduced into New Zealand and Australia.
The summer pelage is a light bay, with the legs and head being darker in color. In winter the pelage assumes a somewhat darker shade.
Adult Weight of the bull: 200–450 kg.
Habitat: Grassy areas in woodlands are preferred.
Food Habits: Grasses are their staple food. In winter, mostly browsing on twigs of shrubs and trees, and peeling of the bark of trees when food is in short supply.
Rutting Season: September-October
Gestation Period: 249–262 days.
Sexual Maturity of Female: 1½ years to 2½ years, depending on nutritional status.
Number of Offspring: One, rarely two
Fallow is one of the very beautiful deer breeds. They are very popular for their signature look. We can see this deer in plenty in parks and zoos as they are decorative.
It is found in the wild and in captivity in most European countries and it has been introduced to the U.S.A., Australia and New Zealand.
They are of various colored like black, shades of brown with spots, to white. Their antlers broke every year and re-grow. Fallow is a very suitable breed for farming domestically
Adult Weight of the Male: 50 – 80 kg.
Habitat: Open woodlands, shrub areas, and grassy glades.
Food Habits: A wide variety of grasses and herbs are eaten. Although fallow deer are more grazers than browsers, twigs, and leaves of many woody plants are consumed.
Rutting Season: September-November
Gestation Period: 226–230 days.
Sexual Maturity of the doe: Two years.
A number of offspring: One, rarely two.
Sika or Japanese Deer
These breeds originated from the far east. Sika is also a common breed of parks and zoos. Nowadays the number of sika is increasing rapidly.
Many species of sika are available. Sika is very highly meat productive so it will be best for commercial deer framing.
The color of the summer pelage varies from a rich chestnut-red to a yellowish-brown, with white spots on both sides.
In both winter and summer pelage, a white rump patch is present. Along the neck, back and extending to the tail is a dark stripe. The young are spotted.
Adult Weight of the Male: 45 – 80 kg.
Habitat: Open woodlands.
Food Habits: During the summer the principal food consists of buds, leaves, and seeds. In winter they eat bark and bamboo grass.
Rutting Season: September-October
Gestation Period: 222 – 246 days.
Sexual Maturity of the Female: 1½ – 2½ years.
Number of Offspring: One, rarely two.
Musk deer has been much reduced in numbers and range in the wild because it has been persecuted for its valuable musk for many centuries. Its habitat has also been destroyed in many places.
The body is covered with long, thick, bristly hairs. The body color of musk deer is quite variable but generally rich dark brown. A musk gland is situated in the abdomen of the male.
Adult Weight of the Male: 9–12 kg.
Habitat: Woodlands and scrub areas at elevations ranging from 1 000 to 4 200 m. They usually inhabit coniferous forests or mixed coniferous, broadleaf tree stands, but also less commonly, broadleaved forests.
Food Habits: A variety of vegetation is eaten, such as grass, moss, and tender shoots; in winter twigs, buds and lichens. More than 90 species of plants are consumed regularly.
Rutting Season: Usually late November – early January, but it can extend from September to April.
Gestation period: 178 – 192 days.
Parturition: April-June, occasionally until early September.
Sexual Maturity of the Female: 1½ years, but breeding normally starts at 2½ years of age.
Number of Offspring: Usually two, rarely one or three.
It is widespread in occurrence in the Indonesian archipelago and it has been introduced to Australia and New Zealand.
This breed has general color greyish to yellowish-brown, browner on the hindquarters and thighs.
Adult Weight of the Male: 102 kg.
Habitat: Grassy plains bordered by woodlands.
Food Habits: Mainly a grazer but also browses, depending on season and availability of food.
Rutting Season: No definite season, rutting may take place at any time of the year.
Gestation Period: Approximately 8 months.
Sexual Maturing of the Female: 1½ years.
Number of Offspring: One
The reindeer originated from the Arctic and Subarctic areas. They are of various colors and sizes. Both male and female reindeer have antlers. The male becomes larger than females.
They are very famous as meat productive deer breeds.
Adult Weight of the Bull: up to 320 kg.
Habitat: Tundra reindeer live either in the tundra throughout the year, or winter in the forest. Forest reindeer live mainly in the taiga forest.
Food Habits: Lichens are a preferred food, but grasses and twigs and leaves of trees and shrubs are also eaten, and occasionally mushrooms and birds’eggs.
Rutting Season: September-October
Gestation Period: 240 days.
Sexual Maturity of the Female: Usually in the second year.
Number of Young: One, occasionally two.
Common Types of Deer Diseases
Like other domestic or wild animals deer also suffers from some deer diseases and parasites. But diseases in deer are comparatively less than other animals.
For commercial deer farming, you must have knowledge about deer diseases and controlling methods.
Diseases are economically very important because the production of deer get reduced if they get infected by any diseases.
A load of disease is high in commercial deer farming as compared to wild or low population densities on the natural range.
Deer often die extremely rapidly – in many cases within 24 hours of the onset of clinical signs.
The age and condition of a deer population affect the level of parasitism and disease.
Deer in their first 12 – 15 months of life are more susceptible to disease than adults.
The chronic wasting disease was first recognized in captive mule deer in Colorado at the year of 1967.
The chronic wasting disease spreads through the prions, which are abnormal proteins and attack the nervous systems of deer.
This disease spread from one animal to other animals by the affected deer’s urine, feces and by decomposition of an infected deer.
The infected deer lose their weight, excessive salvation; stumbling and tremors, etc. are the symptoms of chronic wasting disease.
This disease is very harmful to the human body. So, don’t eat the diseases infected deer’s meat.
Deer often suffers from Lyme disease. This disease is transmitted and spread by ticks. People do not affect by this disease for consuming deer meat.
Basically this disease is caused by bacteria. The infected deer do not carry much bacteria and the disease is not spread from one deer to another or humans.
Nasal Bot Flies
Nasal bot flies are very common parasites of deer which infect their nasal passages. It is not very harmful to deer and does not infect humans.
Adult female fly keep larvae in the nostril of deer and the larvae enter the nasal passages and pass through some stage of development and growth. They do not affect the quality of deer meat.
Epizootic hemorrhagic diseases and bluetongue virus both are liable for the hemorrhagic disease. Hemorrhagic disease does not infect humans.
This disease infected deer show some symptoms like excessive salivation, fever, sloughed or interrupted growth of hooves, swollen of neck, tongue and eyelids, reduced activity and emaciation.
Other Bacterial Diseases
Salmonellae have been isolated from some deer species.
Yersinia bacteria which are associated with yersiniosis have only recently been recognized as a major cause of death in farmed deer in New Zealand.
The signs of yersiniosis are gastroenteritis and sudden death of deer of all ages, but mainly young deer.
Tuberculosis has been recorded among various deer species; it can become widespread among farmed deer if testing and slaughter of reactors are not conducted.
Clostridial diseases (blackleg, black disease, braxy, and pulpy kidney) have been diagnosed in deer. Of these, the latter appears to be the more serious condition in farmed deer.
Leptospirosis is infrequent in occurrence among deer.
Brucellosis occurs among deer, but at a low frequency, as does Johne’s disease, also rather rarely.
Deer are subject to various viral diseases.
Malignant catarrhal fever has occurred among deer in many countries and has resulted in sporadic or multiple deaths.
It has been one of the most serious diseases to occur on deer farms in New Zealand.
Foot and mouth disease also present in deer.
Lungworms occur among most deer on the open range and they are considered to be a serious potential threat to deer farming.
Large lungworms (Dictyocaulus) occur in the main bronchi of the lungs. They do not require an intermediate host.
Most lungworm infestations are small and have no obvious clinical effects upon the animal, but complications can occur when burdens become heavy, particularly in the young animal.
There are widespread reports of gastrointestinal parasitism in deer from many countries of the world.
An extensive range of parasites has been identified in the various species of deer. Generally, gastrointestinal parasitism is most pronounced in younger animals up to 2 years of age.
Liver flukes (Fasciola hepatica and Dicrocoelium lanceolatum) are present in many species of deer. High infestation rates of Fasciola have been recorded in red deer in Germany. Fasciola infestations also have been a problem in North America.
Echinococcus cysts have been reported in some deer species, although it appears that deer are poor hosts of this parasite and infestations are rare.
Ectoparasites are more of a threat to farmed deer than to wild ones because in general, higher stocking rates are apt to result in higher parasite incidence.
Lice occur frequently on farmed deer. Lice could affect young animals and deer in poor conditions during winter, but so far no serious problems have been experienced.
Ticks are often found on deer. Among the many species, Ixodes ricinus is most commonly recorded.
Warble flies may frequent deer in the wild to such extent that hides can be rendered useless for leather production.
Treatment and Prevention of Deer Diseases
Treatment of sick deer is similar to that of domestic animals. Prevention of disease by nutritional management, testing, vaccination, drenching, and dipping, is more important than treatment.
- Prevention of disease and parasitism is best achieved by the routine use of dewormer and avoidance of overstocking, as the incidence of the disease often increases with high-density stocking.
- The newly acquired stock should be isolated from other deer, treated if necessary, and not released with other deer until they all appear in a healthy condition.
- Places, where deer are fed special rations, are important locations of infection and direct placement of feed on the ground increases chances of it. Deer should, therefore, be fed in troughs.
- Sundrenched deer on farms have higher parasite burdens than wild deer. This problem can be overcome if proper drenching procedures are followed.
- The dramatic build-up of lungworms observed on some deer farms can be prevented by regular drenching with common anthelmintics and removal of animals to clean pasture.
- Control efforts should be concentrated on young growing stock and incorporate rotational grazing on to clean pasture after drenching.
- In the control of liver fluke, known fluke and intermediate host infested areas on farms should be avoided when erecting deer fencing enclosures. Areas within existing enclosures that perpetuate the fluke should be re-fenced, drained or modified to destroy the habitat of intermediate hosts.
- As ticks generally occur less frequently on pastures with few shrubs, rushes or tall grasses, this should be kept in mind when laying out a deer farm.
- In general, zoonosis can be better controlled among captive deer than in the wild by the application of proper hygienic practices and treatment.
- Tuberculosis testing of captive deer is very desirable for the eradication and control of the disease.
- It is important for the prevention of the spread of malignant catarrhal fever, as with all contagious diseases, to disperse the herd into as large an area as possible, and to subject the deer to as little stress as possible, as soon as the disease is diagnosed.
- Food must be abundant and of high quality. The addition of an antibiotic to a feed supplement is the most satisfactory method of treatment of bacterial enteritis is generally most deer will eat concentrates regardless of the presence of the drug.
- You should ensure that stock is in a good health condition;
- You should examine regularly vigor, hair, temperature, visible mucous membrane, breath, excrement, and urine
- You should routinely sterilize enclosures and utensils