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Buck Acres owner has new appreciation for deer

Aug. 04, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

BARBOURSVILLE -- Lanny Clay has spent his entire career doing construction and taking care of rental properties. In preparation for retirement, he's decided to go an entirely different route -- especially in this area.

Deer farming.

Clay now has 22 deer, including 11 fawns born this year. He's one of about 30 deer farmers in state of West Virginia, but a lone deer farmer in this area, he said.

In West Virginia, deer farms can't sell deer for meat, Clay said, but he can sell deer to other deer farmers and he can sell them to hunting reserves. Also, when his sizable bucks grow some more, he can collect and sell semen to those interested in breeding large bucks.

The deer farm business, Buck Acres, is something that he's always wanted to try but for years was told he couldn't.

"I always wanted to have a pet deer but I'd been told for 53 years that you cannot have a wild animal in West Virginia," Clay said. "Then I met an Amish guy in Mount Hope, Ohio, who said yes, you can have deer in West Virginia."

That was about four years ago, and he found out there were about 30 deer farms in West Virginia. He got to know some of the other farmers and started his own effort to establish a deer farm. It took almost two years to get the necessary permits and licenses, which he must get renewed each year.

"You can't catch deer in the wild. These have to be bought from a deer farmer," he said. Once you've established your farm, a state Division of Natural Resources representative comes out yearly to make sure your keeping accurate records of the number of deer being raised. Also, a veterinarian must check them regularly, Clay said, adding his local veterinarian isn't a deer expert and so much of his advice comes from a friend who is an experienced deer farmer in Philippi.

Every three years, the deer also must be tested for tuberculosis and brucellosis. When a deer dies, it must be checked for chronic waste disease.

Formerly a deer hunter, Clay said that raising them has made him less interested in hunting them himself, though he believes it is a necessary practice to keep the population in check.

Seeing young ones born has given him a new perspective, he said. Two of his fawns born this year were piebald twins, which are rare, he said.

"That's what's fun -- when they're born," he said. "You can go up to them and pick them up."

He raises his deer on two acres with required 10-foot fences, and plans to fence in two more acres soon.

"You don't need much land to raise deer," he said.

They eat grass, clover and a mixed grains that he provides with oats, molasses, soybeans, corn, beet pulp and yeast. The bucks also get a dairy mineral mix to make their antlers grow. He now has four bucks with antlers and seven male fawns.

It's not Clay's first time raising animals. He said he used to raise cattle, and if the price of cattle went down, he might again.

As far as raising deer, he simply said it's something you have to be interested in to really enjoy it.

"I work from daylight to dark," he said.

He checks them before going to work for eight hours. After work, he feeds them.

"It's probably the most relaxing thing I do," he said. "I'd like for people to come see this. Myself, I think it's interesting."

For more information or to set up a visit, call 304-736-2448. Also, check out "Buck Acres" on Facebook.

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