Deer Barn and Exotic Pens Buildout
The exotic pens are much different than the whitetail pens, since, I do not plan on pushing these through my deer barn. The animals are different body sizes and the chutes would not work for all the animals. The exotics also tend to be much more aggressive toward humans and each other when pushed into tight quarters. Making working them in a barn more of a safety risk for them and the workers. I am choosing to make each of these pens much larger in size. Each pen will be between 6.5 acres and 10 acres. I am planning to have around 20 females in each enclosure with a breeder male. I will dart the young males each year and send them for release on the main ranch. The larger size enclosure helps with parasite problems, since we will be worming these animals through the feed and not giving injections each year. The larger size also helps so when you have room for the animals to get away from you when going to pick up a darted animal. It is important that you clear enough bush to be able to check these animals but leave enough for them to have some cover. I think cleared lanes all the way between fence lines work best. When the animals move from cover to cover, you can count and see them.
We are building a state of the art deer working facility as well (check out our whitetail and exotic breeding initiative). The barn needs to be large enough to handle the growth of our program. The barn is going to be 4,000 square feet. In the barn, there will be 6 8’x8’ sorting rooms as the deer first come into the barn. We will use these to separate the deer into groups that we want to run through the chute. If you separate the does from the fawns, it makes the working at the chute go faster and smoother. They will have different vaccinations and tagging done to each age class, and not having to change the process at the chute saves time. You want to get a deer in and out of the chute as fast as possible to minimize stress to the animals. Once they leave the chute, they can go directly back to their pen or into another set of holding boxes. These boxes are used to hold deer that may be going on a trailer for transport or for holding the does after sedation for artificial insemination. These boxes have a door on both sides to access the sedated does from the other side to pull out into the AI area. Once the does are artificially inseminated, they go into another set of boxes for recovery until ready to go back into the pens. Since timing is very critical to successful AI, we need to have plenty of space to hold and work these deer. The way the barn is designed, we can have deer in sorting rooms, the knock down rooms and the recovery rooms all at the same time. This keeps the flow of the process steady with no down time.
With straws of semen from the best bucks in the industry costing $1000-$7500 a straw, the better you handle the deer in the AI process the better your results. If doing vaginal AI, it takes one straw per doe. If doing Lap AI, you can breed 2 and sometimes 3 does per straw. We plan on doing all Lap AI. The cost of doing Lap AI is a little more, but with the cost of semen straws, it more than makes up for it being able to breed at least 2 does with each straw.
The barn will have a/c ducted into each of the rooms. It is very important that the deer not get hot while in the barn. The barn will have the best spray-in insulation and an a/c system large enough to handle the load of all the body heat in the barn. The floor will be a thick spray on floor that is nonskid. It will be thick and soft enough to give the deer traction but tough enough to handle the traffic. There will also be a floor drain in each box for wash down and clean up.
My office and a drug room will also be in the deer barn. The office is nice to have close by to access records if needed as deer come into the barn. The controlled substances that are used for sedation need to be behind three locks per law. So you need a drug room with a locked cabinet, lock door to room and lock access of deer barn to comply with this law.
Pic: Deer Barn
Another purpose of the barn is sawing the antlers off the bucks each year. As soon as the deer start to strip the velvet off, I want to saw the antlers off. If you do it at this time of year, the bucks are not real aggressive to each other yet. I will saw the antlers just leaving about 2 inches on the head. Leave this 2 inches so the deer can shed it normally later in the year. By cutting the antlers, I can reduce the death lost in the pens due to fighting. The bucks will also fight through the fence and tear up the wire if you do not cut the antlers off. Another reason is, if you need to run the pens into the barn for health reasons during the breeding season, the bucks can be very aggressive. With antlers, it can be a serious risk for the does and the workers. I will pull the bucks out of the doe pens each year after the third breeding cycle. If a doe is not bred after the third cycle, then she will be taken out of the program. I do not want late fawns each year. Late fawns are much smaller at weaning and never seem to quite catch up to their brothers and sisters. I will put these breeder bucks in pens together with yearling bucks. That is another very good reason to have the antlers sawed off! Time away from the does gives the bucks a chance to build back their body condition for next year’s breeding season.
And we are still not done. I will need various other things starting our new program. I will need a feed room for the sack feed and peanuts. A hay shed for the high quality alfalfa. A shop for working on equipment and storing tools. Overhead feed bins for the bulk protein. Portable fogger system for insect and fly control. The single biggest danger to whitetails in the pens is EHD (Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease) in my opinion. It is carried by a tiny Midge fly. So, the fogger is a very important piece of equipment for a deer breeding program.
Starting a breeding program from scratch is a lot of work and costly. Why are we doing all of this? The Answer is simple to give our hunters the very best chance they can have to harvest the whitetail buck of their dreams on a large ranch with a true hunting experience.