Antler Farms

We told you about the rise of deer as livestock, that are now bred on farms for venison. That’s somewhat equivalent to raising cattle for beef, but it’s not the most lucrative use of specifically-bred deer. Another kind of deer farm breeds deer for their antlers: the bigger, the better.

Hunters give antlers a score by measuring features like the length and spread of the main beams and the number and length of the smaller tines that grow out of them. Out in the wild, a really big buck might score 200 inches, if he’s got a “typical” rack, with the main beams curving out from his forehead and an orderly line of tines pointing towards the sky. On a “non-typical” rack, the main beam might split and split again, and the irregular tines will wind chaotically outward. The largest of these, on wild deer, come in over 300 inches.

The antlers that are being produced on deer farms grow much, much larger. In the past five years, farmers have produced non-typical antlers with scores of more than 500 — even more than 600 — inches. It’s not unusual to find deer with 400-inch racks, while racks in the 200-inch range, which on a wild deer would be amazing, are becoming standard for deer raised on farms. Much as the poultry industry has super-sized chicken breasts to meet humans’ culinary preferences, the deer industry has succeeded in enlarging antlers to meet their aesthetic ones.

So what good are big antlers? Hunters are willing to pay a premium for the opportunity to hunt a deer with a spectacular rack they can show off as a trophy. Hunting preserves buy big-antlered deer to attract big-money hunters. And the practice will continue as long as people are impressed with antlers hanging on someone’s wall. However, the most avid opponents of breeding deer for antlers are other hunters. Read more about antler farms at Modern Farmer. -via Digg   

(Image credit: Miko Maciaszek)

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