When children ask Jeremiah Scull where Rudolph is, he usually tells them that the red-nosed reindeer is working in Santas workshop that day.
Scull and his wife, Kari, are the owners of Show-Me Reindeer, a reindeer farm and events business, so mysterious questions like this are not unusual this time of year.
We usually tell the kids to bring reindeer across the country so all the kids can see Santas up close and in most cases he is, Scull said.
A reindeer can cost up to $20,000 to own and is difficult to keep, requiring cooling in hot weather and constant attention.
Despite this, the number of reindeer farmers is steady and growing, said Jeff Phillips, director of the Central Reindeer Owners and Breeders Association. Phillips said there are about 130 farmer members in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
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“It’s an economically more viable business venture than it was 20 to 30 years ago,” Phillips said.
The Scull family and their herd of 15 reindeer are often seen on their farm in Moberly, central Missouri. But in November and December the couple and their daughters, 14-year-old Addie and 10-year-old Audrie, who are both home-schooled, tour the state to show off their reindeer to bookies. events.
That’s how two reindeer, Claus and Comet, slept in their pen and became the subject of many selfies at Windsor High School in Imperial on a recent December afternoon. The couple walked around a red fence surrounded by a plastic chain link fence and signs asking visitors to refrain from touching.
People will try and come and catch them. You have to listen to everything that’s going on, says Scull. They are also my family, my pets, so I don’t tie my animals to a sled or keep them on a lead rope for hours on end.
JoAnn Marty, the school’s student council adviser, said she came across Show-Me Reindeer after her daughter and grandchildren saw the reindeer at a local event. The high school student council hires the reindeer for “Holiday Happiness Week.”
The children were very happy. They are high schoolers, but look at them. I was just as nervous as the kids because I knew how excited they were, Marty said, as student council members helped Scull and Addie set up the pen.
Today, the Show-Me Reindeer is booked for tree lightings, parades, private parties, holiday festivals, libraries and more. The family is scheduled to deliver reindeer pairs to 70 events this holiday season.
The business began in 2014, two years after Scull and Kari took their oldest daughter, Addie, to a local farm and house store with a reindeer and sleigh available for photo opps.
Scull said he noticed a crowd of people being pulled by the antlered animals. He knew the reindeer came from a farm based in Arkansas but traveled to shows around the Midwest. Scull began to wonder why no one in Missouri was doing the same.
We are looking for a hobby animal to enter. I just started looking at reindeer in general, says Scull. Nobody was doing this at the time.
The family got its first pair of reindeer in 2014 and started showing at events that same year.
It started with me calling a lot of places in our first year to see if they were interested, like golf clubs and venues, and just the word travel, Scull said. We have a Facebook page and a website or someone who knows so-and-so.
At the time, the Sculls lived on a farm in the Pacific, where Scull still worked as a firefighter. Since then, they have moved to a larger farm in Moberly and invested in a second trailer and more reindeer. They also built many buildings and pens for their farm. They are in a growth phase, he said, putting money back into the business.
It’s kind of like farming, Scull said. All the income is collected during the harvest but the planning is for the whole year.”
The average cost of a reindeer is between $18,000 and $20,000, more than when Scull started, he said, when the average was closer to $4,000 to $5,000. Now, most buyers wait-list for at least a year, he said, and movingdeer across state lines is heavily regulated.
Care and feeding
Deer are fragile animals and need constant attention. Scull and his family monitor the deer in case one gets its antlers stuck in the fence and maintain a strict check-up schedule, as the reindeer are susceptible to parasites. and tick-borne diseases. They are ruminants, browsing plants and digesting them in a four-chambered stomach.
And because reindeer favor cool climates, many managements keep them cool during the summer, Scull said. These usually include fans, kiddie pools filled with water and brushing to help the deer shed their thick, winter coats.
Both male and female reindeer shed their antlers in the winter, so they start growing new antlers in the spring. Between the stress from the heat and how sensitive the growing antler nubs are during the summer months, the Show-Me Reindeer will not travel for Christmas in July events.
They are a fragile species. They were not born in Missouri. They weren’t born in the lower 48, Scull said. You do things to minimize them to survive here but it’s the same at the zoo. They need 24-hour care.
Scull said he hopes to one day become a self-sustaining farm by breeding and having enough reindeer to sell to other farms. Future plans also include tours of the Moberly farm and a rental program where reindeer are rented to an appropriate on-site construction partner for the entire holiday season.
Scull said she hopes her daughters will eventually expand the business into a statewide attraction. Addie and Audrie work on the farm when their mom isn’t homeschooling them. The girls also help Scull and Kari with events when the reindeer aren’t around.
14-year-old Addie said she thought of becoming a veterinarian because of her love for animals. He said he also hopes to take over the business from his parents one day.
We have gone through a lot to get here, said Addie. I would love to be able to continue this. It’s an amazing job.”
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