An Introduction to Deer Farming

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Herd of Whitetail Deer
Deer must be officially cleared before being allowed into a state, due to the mass spreading of diseases such as CWD.

Few Americans pull a trailer with live whitetail deer 50,000 miles a year. Richard English of Ohio does, while on his way to exhibiting live animals at 35 shows nationwide from July 15 through March 20. English has had that kind of a schedule for the past seven years, which qualifies him as "experienced" in live Whitetail transportation. This mild mannered retired milkman starts each trip from his deer farm near Dayton where he has raised Whitetails for 16 years. English owns his own company now commercially sponsored by Knight & Hale Game Calls. He's a deer farmer and Whitetail exhibitor. His Whitetails ride in a 17 foot steel trailer, eight feet wide, boldly decorated with Knight & Hale information. The trailer is divided into four equal compartments. The bumper style trailer uses a Reiss hitch and will soon be air- conditioned. The trailer's wood floor is covered with at least a three inches of fresh sawdust and a thick blanket of straw before the deer arrive. Then it's pulled by a Ford model 250 three-quarter ton truck with an extended cab powered by a 351 cubic inch engine. English doesn't keep exact records on gas mileage but he reports that it's "not bad" and that he ". . . can run up the side of a mountain at legal speeds." This veteran hauler suggests taking no chances with physical deer comfort or legal appropriateness in animal handling. Before the trip begins English ". . . calls every state I'll be going into. You might as well have a four-way blood test, even though one or two ways are all that are required by some states. Having frequent Tuberculosis, Brucellosis, Antiplasmosis and Blue Tongue test documentation for each animal is the right way to begin.

Then you call the head game warden or senior law enforcement of each state you'll be visiting, asking exactly what additional information may be needed when transporting deer through that state. It may be an importation permit or just a letter from them saying that I can haul deer through their state," English says. After you're done with the testing, English urges that ". . . you call the Department of Agriculture in each of those same states so they give you blood test importation numbers which will allow you to bring your animals into their state. You need information from law enforcement in the state capitol and information from the Agricultural Department so that you will be totally appropriate. Then you have the health papers from your own veterinarian showing that the deer have been tested and are free from diseases." English explains that ". . . in some states you're not allowed to sell deer and that's why before you go you want everybody (Agricultural Department and Wildlife Department) to know exactly what you're doing so that you won't be breaking any laws." As for the trailer itself, you want to be sure that that trailer is closed up tight but well ventilated. If the animals can see a half-inch gap they think they can go through it. The idea is to keep good ventilation without light. Don't let them see any gaps or holes. If there is a vent with rivets on it be sure that those rivets are covered with tape so that the animal won't cut his nose as he moves his head up and down that trailer wall. Probably the least cooperative, according to English, of the states is North Carolina. The most cooperative states are Arkansas, Maryland, Tennessee, South Carolina, Michigan and Alabama. Most of the time, English gets cooperation by careful planning and personal contact. The buckeye deer hauler reports being stopped three times during the past 16 years. All three of those times were in the last three years, one stop in each of Tennessee, Kentucky and Missouri. Kentucky is particularly sensitive right now because of some horse diseases that officials are watching carefully.

Bedded Whitetail Buck 
As famously hardy as whitetail deer are, it requires alot of work to keep them healthy and alive throughout transporting them.

One key to successfully hauling whitetail deer is temperature. The cooler it is the better. English says that ". . . if you're going to haul deer in 90 degree temperature you need a lot of ventilation. I stop several times and hose these animals a bit. You don't want to get them soaking wet, just relieve the heat. Keep them cool and as comfortable as possible. Keep drinking water in there by tying it into a corner and perhaps placing one "leaf" of a small hay bale in each bucket so that the water is more stable as you travel. Yes, it will spill. But it's a start." The quicker you can take deer from point A to point B, the better chance they have of living. "If it's really hot hot hot," English reports, ". . . then drive all night so your animals will be out of the sun. Check your maps and state highway officials so you know if there is any long construction projects that will back up interstate traffic. Avoiding being stopped in the sun with deer in a trailer is big time helpful." English remembers people at some of the animal auctions traveling a 1000 miles to get deer there for a sale day and have the buyer wait three days before hauling them back home. There's usually sulfur water in the sale barn and different feed so the animals may not eat or drink for four days plus while they're at the sale. Furthermore, the buyer may have to haul the animals another 1000 miles back to their home so the animals could end up not eating or drinking for maybe five days and they are totally stressed. That's why they die when you get them home, according to English. "I recommend buying animals right off the farm. You're better off to buy them from the deer farmer and take them straight to your own deer farm as fast as you can legally. You can still buy deer at the sale but extra care will mean healthy animals." Before he pulled out of our Missouri deer farm recently English noted that he was hauling antlered bucks in velvet. That takes extra care and compartmentalization so that animals don't hurt themselves.

He also quickly noted ". . . the most dangerous deer is the tame deer. They kill about a 100 people a year. Tame deer lose their respect for people. And because people are used to handling them they think they're not going to get hurt. These deer can turn on you in a second. When you move them you stay out of that trailer. Try not to have any contact with the deer. And it really doesn't do any good to have a nice big shield. I've got several of them around and they get taken right out of my hands (by the deer) every now and then. Just don't get in that trailer with them if you can help it."

Now at the start of his upcoming seasons, English plans lots of time in that Ford and on the telephone. He smiles and twists a bit when he notes that he may hit 80,000 miles on American highways pulling deer this year.

The 26 Roles of a Deer Farmer

The life of a deer farmer is a tough one. Many long hours are put into a regular day. The following is a menu for success.

1.BE A PHOTOGRAPHER

Starting on day one, document everything with your camera….fawns, mothers, bucks, injured, healed, sick, aged, non-typical, albinos, etc.

2. BE A TOUR GUIDE

The community around your deer farm will naturally assume that you are also running a deer zoo. As a result, they will want to visit to mingle with the herd, pet fawns, grab antlers and get pictures of them and you. This includes friends, family, schools, churches, boyscout clubs, etc.

3. BE A MOTHER

Since many fawns are abandoned at birth, it is vital that a deer farmer learn to bottle feed, cuddle, clean up the pen, bathe and support the lonely infants fighting for their lives.

4. BE A NUTRITIONIST

A quality diet is key, so educate yourself on the proper vitamin and mineral needs, water availability and quality, food supplement, browse and grazing crops desired, and food varieties for your deer herd. Basic food plot knowlege helps with this tremendously.

5. BE A CROP FARMER

learn to plow for crops, check soil chemistry, water, and plant proper foods and grazing varieties. Manage your equipment and understand the timing of planting and fertilizer consistencies.

6. BE A COLLECTOR

It is important to hunt sheds each year and document any available data regarding your deer. Store and arrange it for teaching needs.

7. BE A VETERINARIAN

It is important that you know how to manage a sick herd, in addition to caring for sick, wounded or dying deer, delivering newborns, giving injections and meds orally, administering suppositories, and basic blood analyzing for diseases.

8.BE A SCIENTIST

All data pertaining to your herd must be collected and put on a spread sheet for analysis as well as for articles written for deer hunters and local newspapers. Documentation of births and deaths with dissection kits for back up support is mandatory.

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