Buildings & Interiors

Deer Handling Facilities

For alternative livestock breeders and suppliers, the last decade of exponential growth has been a time of radical change. Greater captive deer populations mean a wider and more reliable breeding stock. New “farms” and other deer handling facilities mean more research, and more across-the-board experiences these breeders and suppliers can share for their mutual benefit.

Unfortunately, deer management advice isn’t always useful. In fact, it is sometimes false and unreliable, not to mention self-serving. This is why it is important to go to the real experts in the field of deer ranching, not only for advice on how to attract deer but on the nuts-and-bolts details of keeping them penned and healthy.

One of the most essential features of most game ranching is a “catch pen”; the place where you harvest deer, so to speak. This pen is commonly a four-sided corral of sorts, with an opening in one end where deer ranchers put out feed to attract deer. By simply moving the feed farther into the pen on each feeding, even cautious deer will sooner or later find themselves on the wrong side of the gate, and this is when carefully planned penning pays off, at least for the rancher.

Once the rancher has a viable and sufficiently diverse catch of deer, he or she can then devise the best methods for vaccinating the animals, deworming them, and artificially inseminating female deer, or does. Even though deer have a natural immunity to many diseases, there are a few which can decimate a herd. One is Epizootic hemorrhagic disease, or EHD. Another is Clostridia. Finally, ranchers must deal with bovine tuberculosis (mycobacterium bovis), which is normally not present in wild deer but seems to crop up when deer are farmed, or ranched, on densely populated acres.

Deer are easier to raise than cattle, due to natural immunities and a tendency to graze widely. But that doesn’t mean a future rancher can ignore planning. Issues that should be addressed before starting include the goal (are you raising deer to sell or hunt?), the amount of land available for the deer ranch, the size of deer pens (including the issue of intensive feeding), and the locations from which water and food will be dispensed. For those who raise deer for hunting, some kind of on-premise accommodation might also be necessary, and it should represent something slightly better than a bed in a bunkhouse or an unheated cabin.

Once a future rancher has all his or her ducks (or deer) in a row, success is related to many things but starting out right with the right deer handling facility can make all the difference. According to a 2006-2007 study, the economic impact of deer breeding and hunting activities exceeds $650 million a year and provides more than 7,335 jobs, with the lion’s share of the activity in Texas.

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