Red Deer 101

By: Chelsie McKenzie (AI Diversified) and Dr. Mike BringansOriginally appeared in the Summer 2016 Issue of Whitetails of Louisiana

I was 7 years old the first time I helped synchronize a buffalo, I may have been barely tall enough to insert the CIDR properly, but in that moment I learned, buffalo are terrifying, maybe we should stick with cervid’s. In the past 20 plus years my mother (Kelly Butler) and I have evolved A.I. Diversified. Inc from working with elk, to whitetail, to red deer, and every species in between. We both have had opportunities to travel to New Zealand, and China, to work With Dr. Mike Bringans, giving us the fortuity to work with red deer, and opening our eyes to this new market in the U.S.
Red deer are native to the UK, they were imported to New Zealand in 1851, then over the years, without having any natural predators, there became an overabundance, and became a pest. Hunting was one way to control the red deer, then eventually they began implementing deer farms, and now red deer farming generates more than $100 million of annual income. The most common venison served in restaurants is red deer, which 85% of the venison consumed in restaurants is imported from New Zealand. Not only is red deer used for the meat, but there is high demand in the velvet antler as well as hard antler competitions. Selling semen and seed stock is also an option.
The upcoming market of red deer in the U.S., is not the only reason to shift to these magnificent animals, but they are also effortless to raise. Red deer are grazers and you may yield 4-6 deer per acre. A permit is still needed in most states to raise red deer although it is illegal to raise red deer in some states that have wild elk populations because they can crossbreed. The fencing regulations are the same as for other cervids and the same facilities may be used as well. They also have a very calm demeanor and high fertility rates which makes them excellent candidates for A.I. programs.

The stags (males) are now growing antlers that score almost 800”, as well as producing 20-25 pounds of velvet. A mature stag can weigh an average of 500 lbs. One stag can cover 50 to 55 head of hinds.

It is just not about the stags though, the hinds (female) are also very important. A mature female can have an average weight of 250 to 275 lbs. They calve easily and mature hinds may have about a 95% successful weaning rate. Gestation is approximately 233 days.

The reproduction research that has been done in this industry in the past 20 years has opened doors to success in cervical A.I. with sexed, fresh, and conventional semen, lap A.I. and embryo programs that improve a program in great strides.

Not only do red deer produce well in most every aspect, but they adapt well in many different environments, they are able to handle cold and heat, meaning you may raise them anywhere from Maine to Texas, and i- between. They are also disease resistant with EHD being a non-factor. They can live up to 20 years in captivity.
Once the decision has been made to begin raising red deer, then you may want to decide which market you would be interested in. Setting goals and choosing the best genetics to reach the goal potential is the first step. We generally recommend to strive for one genetic goal at a time.