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Division of Marketing and Development
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
Mayo Building, M-9
407 South Calhoun Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0800
(850) 617-7300

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
Adam H. Putnam, Commissioner

Video Script

Title: Deer Farming in Florida
Type: Informational/Promotional Videos
Length: 5:32
Year: 1997

Farmers and landowners alike frequently look for ways to diversify the use of their land. Raising cattle or other livestock is an option for those who have ample acreage and labor available. But for smaller scale operations, deer farming is fast becoming a popular, cost-effective and potentially profitable, agricultural alternative.

Like any livestock, a deer herd needs good pastures for grazing. On average, a producer can maintain six head of deer per acre -- the same amount of land necessary for just one brood cow.

Watha Ard: They like pastures of gold, lush, green, well-fertilized grasses. They'll eat the same grasses and so forth that cattle will utilize. But they eat a whole lot less, and you can raise more pounds of venison per acre than you can beef.

Joe Subers, Deer Farmer: We also feed ours, daily, a pelleted grain and that gives them the additional minerals they need as well as the protein. But in addition what it does, we see them every day, they get used to us and it makes it easier to handle them because they do know us.

This interaction helps the deer to remain docile which is especially beneficial for veterinary purposes, harvesting velvet and marketing.

Deer are free-range farm animals and can be raised easily on existing cattle ranges. Though they do not require expensive shelters; high, sturdy fencing is required -- as much to keep predators out as the deer confined.

Because they don't require costly facilities, one of the few initial expenses in deer farming is purchasing the breeding stock. There are a number of deer breeds being raised in Florida. These include red, fallow, axis, Sika, and elk. Though each breed has specific characteristics, such as size and weight, disease resistance, and docility; farm-raised deer seem to share one common trait.

Watha Ard: They are much less labor intensive than cattle. They don't require the handling and time-consuming activities that cattle do ... much easier to care for.

So no matter what your resources, there is a breed to match your particular situation and objectives. Especially if your objective is selling a marketable product.

Watha Ard: The demand is here, we just need producers to grow these wonderful animals in order to have enough venison to supply the orders.

Farm or ranch-raised venison is one of the healthiest meats; it is low in fat and calories, and is an excellent source of protein.

Jean Subers, Deer Farmer: It's low in cholesterol, low in saturated fats, and has an extremely delicious taste. If you cook venison and leave it a little bit pink, it tastes very much like a very-well cooked beef tenderloin.

Because it is lean substitute for beef, venison is making a name for itself in fine restaurants and retail outlets. Currently only 20 percent of the venison eaten in the U.S. comes from domestic sources.

Other markets for deer products such as breeding, velvet, hides, and trophies have potential and are growing. But the greatest product of deer farming is the experience itself.

Watha Ard: The ease with which red deer handle ... it's just very, very, very enjoyable to me. It doesn't take much work; it doesn't take any excess equipment or anything of this nature. It's just a pastime rather than a job.

Jean Subers, Deer Farmer: It's been a wonderful experience for my husband and I and that's one thing that I like the most about deer farming -- it's something that we have been able to do together, and it's been very rewarding for both of us.

Like any other livestock operation, deer herding -- whether it be for personal consumption or sale -- still requires an investment of time and money, along with continuous management. But with the low production costs, the minimal maintenance fees and the growth potential of its products, deer farming is becoming recognized a cost-effective alternative.

Joe Subers, Deer Farmer: If you want a pleasurable lifestyle out on the farm, then consider deer because they are an awfully nice animal to be associated with. Not that a cow isn't, because we enjoy our cows, but deer are kind of special.

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