To Prevent CWD, Ohio Increases Regulations for Deer Farmers

With Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) showing up in more states across the U.S., it's no surprise that deer farms in CWD-free states, like Ohio, are increasing.

Ohio is a favorable state to raise deer and has the additional benefit of being centrally located when it comes to selling deer as livestock or pets.

Currently, there are 684 deer farms in Ohio with an estimated worth of $59.2 million. This ranks Ohio as one of the top states for raising deer. Just under 60 percent of Ohio's deer farms were started between 1999 and 2009 with revenues tripling since 2004, according to a study from the Whitetail Deer Farmers of Ohio in 2010.

Many deer, however, aren't sold to restaurants or butcher shops. Instead, deer farmers sell to other breeders and hunting preserves to try and grow bucks with abnormally large antlers. Top bucks can sell for thousands of dollars and even push into six-figure territory.

Last month, House Bill 389 took effect, which establishes "requirements and procedures governing propagating and hunting captive deer." With the recent CWD outbreaks across the country, it's good to see state regulations being put in place to help keep a closer watch on the spread of disease.

If CWD were to break out in Ohio it would have serious implications on the deer farming industry and fewer states would be willing to allow the importation of deer from a state with animals testing positive for the deadly disease.

Last year the Ohio Department of Agriculture tested 1,500 wild deer, all of which tested negative for CWD.

In the past, only deer farmers who sold their animals across state lines were required to get their deer tested. Now the law requires all captive whitetail deer herds to be tested - including those on hunting preserves. Of Ohio's nearly 700 deer farms, only 250 had registered with the program before the law was passed.

Overall, it appears that House Bill 389 will have a positive effect on the deer farming industry. Although it's not always appreciated, increased regulations around testing of captive deer herds for CWD and other diseases is an important step toward ensuring the safety of our wild herds. While the spread of CWD in the wild wouldn't instantly wipe out a deer herd, the effects of the disease could be long and drawn out, having potentially devastating effects on the whitetail population and hunting seasons.