Raising Reindeer for Profit

Sarah Beth Cavanah discusses what you need to know about raising reindeer for profit, including the cost of purchasing reindeer, reindeer temperament, how to make money with reindeer and boarding reindeer on the homestead.

| December 2001/January 2002

Learn about the pros and cons of raising reindeer for profit.

You know Dasher and Dancer, but did you also know that reindeer are poised to be a hot item in small-scale agriculture? Their cuteness factor is undeniable, plus they're friendly and can be lucrative when the holidays arrive. But if you decide to raise them before investigating thoroughly, it could be your face — not just your nose — that's bright red.

Remember when pot-bellied pigs were going to make us all rich? When emus were going to replace the beef industry? Exotic animals have come in and out of popularity and often haven't lived up to their hype. Could reindeer be different?

Well . . . maybe. Reindeer enthusiasts say being on the forefront has its rewards. Reindeer can make beaucoup bucks by just standing in front of a sleigh for a few weeks, and the rest of the year they provide the advantages of white-tailed deer in a friendly, domesticated package. However, the process is not without pitfalls. Any who choose to be on the cutting-edge of this trend will be pioneers, dealing with all that pioneers face: lack of practical local knowledge, uncertain markets and the high cost of novelty, to name a few. There is plenty of help available if you go the reindeer route. To raise or not to raise, that is the question.

Checking Out Cupid: Raising Reindeer for Profit

Judy Tamagni was considering adding to her menagerie, which already included horses, mules, a miniature donkey, guinea pigs, chickens and various other animals. Tamagni's husband had already put the brakes on acquiring more critters. But Tamagni had seen some reindeer in a local Christmas parade and was envisioning the possibilities. Tamagni thought the reindeer could do some light harness work, or might be able to complement the sheep the family uses to graze their 20 acres of noncrop land. Then there was the novelty aspect: During the holiday season, reindeer can be rented out for events or promotions, making money by merely showing up. "They're just adorable," Tamagni said.

A year later, Tamagni still doesn't have reindeer. It's not that the possible advantages aren't attractive enough, but Tamagni is concerned about the pitfalls she can't anticipate. What if the cold-weather creatures don't take well to the mild climate of Tamagni's Napa Valley property? She's also heard that reindeer bulls sometimes can be temperamental and difficult to deal with. Then there's the uncertainty as to exactly how California's Fish and Game Department will view the reindeer: Are they livestock that can use regular fencing and other equipment, or will the state require her to treat them like white-tailed deer, with high fences and Byzantine regulations? And, of course, the price tag: One doe costs between $2,000 and $3,000, plus whatever it costs to transport the animals. "You just don't venture into something with animals without knowing what you're doing," Tamagni said.

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