Exotic animal farmers are people who raise out-of-the-ordinary wild animals
not usually thought of as farm stock -- ostriches, emus, bison, wild boars,
miniature donkeys, alligators and llamas.
People choose to raise these animals to capture a market for exotic meat,
leather, wool or natural oil. For example, the alligator is sold for its meat
and for its skin, which is made into everything from suitcases to shoes.
Because exotic animals are less available, the breeding stock can cost
a great deal of money.
Farms can vary in size. Some farmers fence in an acre or two to test out
emu farming. Others go into large-scale commercial production.
The investment required also varies. For example, bison farming just requires
a tall fence. "They can jump eight feet from a standstill," says Sarah Perkins,
a bison farmer in Ohio. Once the fencing is done, the bison need little else.
Other animals, such as birds, require much more care.
Animals such as ostriches and bison are becoming more popular as meat alternatives
to cattle, pigs and poultry. "Bison meat is much better for you," says Perkins.
"It's lower in fat and higher in protein."
Because of the rise in popularity of different animals, Perkins says her
bison farm doesn't even have to advertise.
"We haven't had to advertise because we can't even keep in enough to sell.
People from as far away as Asia and Africa are interested in the meat." Approximately
2,000 farms raise bison in North America.
Farmers don't work regular business hours. They must get up early in the
morning to feed and tend to their stock. They usually do the same in the evening.
It's often difficult for a farmer to get time for a vacation.
Farmers must also care for sick or injured animals and attend to their
births, at any time of the day or night. "The young ones take a lot of work,"
says Joyce Cox, an ostrich farmer. "But once they get older, they only need
their feeding and daily care."
Farming can require quite a bit of physical strength to pen the animals,
carry feed, transport animals and clean their living area. Much of the work
is done outdoors. However, some animals need less care, and so require less