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Management practices used by white-tailed deer farms in Pennsylvania and herd health problems

Jason W. BrooksAnimal Diagnostic Laboratory, College of Agricultural Sciences, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802.

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Bhushan M. JayaraoDepartment of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, College of Agricultural Sciences, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802.

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Abstract

Objective—To determine current management practices used by white-tailed deer farms in Pennsylvania and identify animal health problems that exist in these herds.

Design—Cross-sectional study.

Study Population—Owners and managers of 233 farms in Pennsylvania that raised white-tailed deer.

Procedures—A self-administered questionnaire was mailed to participants.

Results—Herds ranged in size from 1 to 350 deer. Land holdings ranged from 0.07 to 607 hectares (0.17 to 1,500 acres). Stocking density ranged from 0.1 to 118.6 deer/hectare (0.04 to 48 deer/acre). Most (84%) respondents raised deer for breeding or hunting stock; 13% raised deer exclusively as pets or for hobby purposes, and purpose varied by herd size. Multiple associations were identified between management or disease factors and herd size. The use of vaccines, use of veterinary and diagnostic services, use of pasture, and use of artificial insemination increased as herd size increased. The most common conditions in herds of all sizes were respiratory tract disease, diarrhea, parasitism, and sudden death. The prevalence of respiratory tract disease increased as herd size increased.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results suggested that many aspects of herd management for white-tailed deer farms in Pennsylvania were associated with herd size, but that regardless of herd size, many preventive medicine practices were improperly used or underused in many herds.

Abstract

Objective—To determine current management practices used by white-tailed deer farms in Pennsylvania and identify animal health problems that exist in these herds.

Design—Cross-sectional study.

Study Population—Owners and managers of 233 farms in Pennsylvania that raised white-tailed deer.

Procedures—A self-administered questionnaire was mailed to participants.

Results—Herds ranged in size from 1 to 350 deer. Land holdings ranged from 0.07 to 607 hectares (0.17 to 1,500 acres). Stocking density ranged from 0.1 to 118.6 deer/hectare (0.04 to 48 deer/acre). Most (84%) respondents raised deer for breeding or hunting stock; 13% raised deer exclusively as pets or for hobby purposes, and purpose varied by herd size. Multiple associations were identified between management or disease factors and herd size. The use of vaccines, use of veterinary and diagnostic services, use of pasture, and use of artificial insemination increased as herd size increased. The most common conditions in herds of all sizes were respiratory tract disease, diarrhea, parasitism, and sudden death. The prevalence of respiratory tract disease increased as herd size increased.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results suggested that many aspects of herd management for white-tailed deer farms in Pennsylvania were associated with herd size, but that regardless of herd size, many preventive medicine practices were improperly used or underused in many herds.

Contributor Notes

The authors thank Dr. Walter Cottrell of the Pennsylvania Game Commission and Dr. Arthur Hattel, Dr. Gary San Julian, Dr. Ernest Hovingh, and Mr. Donald Wagner of The Pennsylvania State University for technical assistance.

Address correspondence to Dr. Brooks.