fall arrives, many West Virginians have waited in anticipation for the upcoming
season. No, I am not talking about Halloween, football or Thanksgiving. Deer
season and the honored tradition of hunting is finally here. I would bet my
best cow that most West Virginians have taken part in this season or have eaten
a hunter's spoils. It is a sure bet as hunting is a pastime woven into the
heritage of rural states like ours. The excitement does not stop with just
hunting. The cervid industry has expanded beyond the hunter's mark into a new,
innovative agricultural opportunity, an opportunity West Virginia is taking
Virginia "deer farmers" describe the two-year-old industry as
'thriving'. In 2015, legislation was passed to allow the processing of venison.
In that same bill, authority to manage this program was transferred to the West
Virginia Department of Agriculture (WVDA). All around the state, producers are
excited for the potential captive cervids could have for our state. There are
two types of licenses within this program. One is to breed and propagate
captive cervids and create cervid byproducts for sale. The other is for a
facility to breed, propagate, harvest or slaughter captive cervids, create
cervid byproducts, permit hunting of captive cervids or sell venison to others.
we say cervids, we are talking about elk, fallow, red deer and white tail.
Demand for the products produced from these animals is currently at an all-time
high within the United States. This demand is not being met domestically
resulting in importing cervid meat from international markets. New Zealand is
currently the number one producer for cervid products in the world. With how
often the average West Virginian interacts with deer, it is hard to believe we
have to import these products at all!
aside the economic impact, why venison? Did you know it is much lower in fat
and cholesterol than most meats? Venison has become a favorite of
health-conscious individuals, including those on restrictive diets. Venison is
also high in nutrients like B vitamins, iron and phosphorus. Meat products are
not the only goods being produced from captive cervid farming. Hunting
preserves are on the rise in West Virginia with around 400 acres currently
under construction and more in the planning stages. The bonus to these
preserves is the vast majority of these acres could not be used for traditional
agriculture. Some farmers are also finding opportunity for additional business
from tourism and handmade crafts and furniture.
where are we? Currently, the WVDA has issued 25 licenses for captive cervid
producers in West Virginia and several more are pending. Even though my
administration inherited this issue, we believe the WVDA is the best agency to
manage the program. We have a well-equipped and well-versed staff lead by our
state veterinarian who will ensure healthy captive and wild populations. The
future is promising for captive cervid farming in the Mountain State as we
should continue to see a growth in production and the number of farms.
our hunting seasons carry on, remember to shop local and/or check out a West
Virginia captive cervid farm. And if you see a bald, retired Marine in the
woods, don't shoot! Just say, 'Hey Commissioner.'
West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture
Crescent Gallagher, Communications Director, email@example.com, 304-558-3708 or 304-380-3922