The 30 Roles of a Deer Farmer

A deer farmer is a brave individual who chooses to operate a deer farm. This person will work many jobs each day utilizing all 24 hours on the clock.

The deer farmer plays at least 30 different roles in life. The following provides an insight into the types of knowledge, skills and activities that will affect you if you choose to become a deer farmer.

  1. ACCOUNTANT – keeping good financial records so you (and your bank and investors) know if you are making or losing money, and in what areas. Managing your cash flows so that you have money to cover your ongoing and period expenses.
  2. BARTERER – with local grocery stores for old greens, vegetables, old bread and other foods to be discarded for the deer. Trade with local farmers for grain, hay and other supplies for deer products.
  3. BUTCHER – meat from animals must be properly hung, dressed and packaged for eating. Many will learn your techniques, why you handle the meat and how to properly package and market it.
  4. CHEMIST – learning about meds such as anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics, pain killers, depressants and tranquilizers. Better become friends with a drug salesperson and a local vet to avoid calls at night.
  5. COLLECTOR – gathering dropped antlers each year and documenting the data, storing and arranging them for teaching needs and packing them safely for research, antler competitions, sale or other uses.
  6. CONSTRUCTION SUPERINTENDENT – building anything anytime and having a full tool shop and work bench to fix fences, pens and holes dug by deer, or visitors who toss objects over the fence tops. Fixing pumps and generators when the power is off, and heating water tubs when they freeze.
  7. COMPUTER USER – for accounting software to keep financial records, spreadsheets for data analysis, word processing for letters, brochures and promotional materials, custom packages for animal records, and the Internet for e-mail, discussion forums and a farm website.
  8. COORDINATOR – through your local or national deer industry association, you will soon be asked to undertake some projects, organize some events or co-ordinate some other activities. You will need to learn how to get people to work together and how to balance a focus on getting tasks done with following a process that keeps people committed.
  9. ENGINEER – knowing what to build and where for birthing areas, and shelters for wind, rain and snow. How to organize food and water areas, pens and sheds for tools and isolation areas for problem deer; proper fences to keep deer in and predators out.
  10. FARMER – learn to plow for crops, check soil chemistry, water, and plant proper grasses and grazing varieties. Manage your equipment and understand the timing of planting and fertilizer consistencies.
  11. FRIEND OF THE DEER – this is the best role of all. One must be empathetic, totally giving of love and time for the rewards these animals will give.
  12. JANITOR – there is always cleaning and disposing of debris, old food, skins, untouched food, toys, limbs from trees, and water and feed troughs that last 3 hours before they need attention.
  13. LABORER – a never ending job to clean pens, build fences, get feed, repair trees and plants, mow grass and cater to the never- ending needs of your deer.
  14. LANDSCAPER – deer will eat everything green, so you better plan regularly for new trees, grass, and vegetables, and pull weeds that they avoid. They will scrape and ruin grass, pull out plants and chew bark off certain trees.
  15. LOBBYIST – some people are against deer farming and are constantly trying to have laws and regulations put into place banning game farming. You need to promote the benefits of deer farming to legislators and the public all the time.
  16. MANAGER – managing the herd, thinning as needed, isolating problem deer, and penning animals that are sick and dying. Control the carrying capacity of the herd on the property available.
  17. MORTICIAN – death will occur, and you will need to remove the carcass and manage the body for butchering, meat packaging, and removal of organs for research and study. You may need to send it to a local animal lab to determine cause of death, and what steps you can take in the future to avoid similar problems.
  18. MOTHER – many fawns are abandoned at birth, or you may choose to bottle-raise them. Learn to feed, cuddle, bond with, clean up, bathe and support the lonely infants struggling for life.
  19. NURSERY SUPERVISOR – young fawns eat 12 times a day, eliminate 15 to 18 times and urinate 20 times a day. So you will need to keep a special place for them to live in for the first 3 weeks, day and night to meet their needs.
  20. NUTRITIONIST – diet is key, so learn about proper vitamins and mineral needs, water availability and quality, food supplements, browse and grazing crops and related topics.
  21. PHOTOGRAPHER – you will want to be constantly taking pictures – fawns, mothers, bucks, injured, albinos, non-typical, etc. – and use them for your marketing, promotion, public relations and information activities.
  22. REFEREE – in times of buck fights and struggles with injuries, only you will be there to step in, especially at night when most fights occur. Deer society has a structure, and you will learn who is in charge and who must go.
  23. REPORTER – the local papers love to visit, as do hunters, law enforcement personnel, anti-hunters, and game activists who oppose penning animals. You must learn the politics of survival and the skills of public speaking.
  24. SALES PERSON – unlike the mainstream livestock industry, deer farmers have to market their own deer and related products and services. You need to know how to advertise and close sales.
  25. SCIENTIST – data must be collected, analyzed, interpreted and written up. Participation in research projects to learn more about how to care and manage the deer.
  26. STATISTICIAN – keeping exact records on newborn, injured, medications, buck doe ratios, does bred, off-spring, genetic history and names of all, of course!
  27. STUDENT – an important role of learning more about deer with each new dawn, feeding habits, breeding, health and wellness and deer society behaviors.
  28. TEACHER – now that you are seen as the authority on deer, you will speak at schools, social groups, clubs and seminars. You will be interviewed by the media.
  29. TOUR GUIDE – the public thinks deer farms are a zoo, and schools, groups, neighbors and friends all want tours to mingle with the herd, pet fawns, grab antlers and get pictures of them and you.
  30. VETERINARIAN – managing the sick, wounded and dying; helping with deliveries; giving injections and meds orally; administering suppositories; checking droppings and doing basic blood work.

Despite all these demands, most deer and elk farmers love what they do, and would not change it for anything! Go figure!

This is an expanded and edited version of an article entitled “Deer Farming: An Insight” that was published in the Fall 2000 edition of the Canadian Elk & Deer Farmer magazine.