FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 7, 2010
When speaking of economic engines for our state, we must include one booming industry with a total financial impact of more than $5 billion annually.
Deer breeding or ranching (called deer farming in some states), and more scientifically correct the cervid industry, is reportedly the fastest growing industry in rural America and involves breeding deer in controlled environments.
Currently Texas is the number one deer ranching state, followed by Pennsylvania. Today, there are over 1,198 active deer breeders in this state, most of whom represent small landowners and family-run operations.
Not only is deer breeding becoming quite profitable, it is offering many struggling families a livelihood.
"Unfortunately, the day is waning in which a family can make a living from the land! World markets, the economy, …..and loss of profitability of 'traditional' agriculture have made it difficult for folks to hold onto their land," explains James Kroll, Ph.D., Henry Rockwell Professor at the Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture, Stephen F. Austin State University.
Dr. Kroll also reports that "the unfortunate result is an escalating loss of the rural lifestyle enjoyed by many of us over the life of the Lone Star State. Land is being fragmented at an unprecedented rate and Texas, unfortunately is in the top 10 states in loss of rural, undeveloped lands."
Once thought of only as a hobby, today in an effort to hold onto family farms and ranches, many people are turning to alternative enterprises like deer ranching.
Groups like the Texas Deer Association and the Deer Breeders Co-Op of Texas have been tremendous assets to the deer industry by assisting breeders' marketing efforts and providing extensive education.
In the past, breeding wildlife has involved only the exotic species (axis, fallow and red deer), since they enjoy a more favorable regulatory environment. More recently, significant opportunities have developed with a native species--white-tailed deer. Texas leads the nation in whitetail deer sales.
Experts like Dr. Kroll, also known as Dr. Deer, have played a significant role in developing whitetail breeding to provide small landowners what he calls a "piece of the pie!"
That pie includes a $3 billion a year deer hunting industry, mostly from hunting revenues that once came only from large landholdings, leaving the small landowner out. Now small landholders can compete in an industry that was once reserved for the wealthy who owned thousands of acres.
When one considers that the average hunting expenditure per hunter has increased by 11 percent over the past 10 years and that an average big game hunter spends $1,360 annually, deer ranching makes a lot of sense.
The many financial components of the deer breeding industry range from an annul total of $115 million in deer purchased to $24 million for handling facilities. In between are sales of feeders and watering equipment, feed, semen storage and artificial insemination costs, veterinary services and fencing.
In the American Frontier of long ago the skin of a male deer was worth a dollar, which is how the term "buck" for a $1 bill originated. As the frontier changed, so has rural Texas and what a $1 bill will buy, encouraging a new science and way of doing business through deer breeding.
I echo Dr. Deer's insightful statement that "Texas has been a leader in deer management since the 1970s, and now enjoys a leadership role in deer breeding."
As a state we should support all ongoing efforts to improve and expand deer breeding operations. While deer hunting season in Texas overall runs from around Nov. 7 to Jan. 17, with dates varying depending on location and lease extensions, deer breeding is a year-round industry that promises rich economic rewards for all Texans.
As always, if you have any input or questions regarding these or other matters, please do not hesitate to contact Doris Sanchez, my Communications Director, 512-463-0385.