After one season of keeping the nursery pen clean of reindeer poop, I found myself with a surplus. Running out of places to put it, I started using it in our vegetable garden and on bare spots on the lawn. Our garden had never produced so much, and the bare spots on the lawn were greening nicely.
The local ladies garden club host an annual spring plant sale that over the years has grown to a sizable event with plenty of local news coverage. We thought it would be fun to see if we could sell the extra excreta as plant and garden fertilizer. After a lengthy search to find the people in charge, we were able to contact them. The organizers were happy to have us sign up for the event.
The packaging and processing of the reindeer poop was next on the agenda. Collection was already part of the daily routine to keep the barn and pens clean. Packaging proved not to be much of a problem either. We bought #8 paper bags for the smaller size (5 lbs). For the 25 pound packages, we used empty feedbags turned inside out and tied on top with twine. I was able to make labels easily with my computer. The total cost, including labour, came to less than ten cents a pound.
We were set to take our "Reindeer Raisins" to market! The local TV news decided to run a live feature that day. Unfortunately the camera cable was not long enough to reach our display. However, I did manage to get the president of the garden club to talk about the reindeer manure as one of the new features. The reporter and president talked about it for a little while during the TV segment.
All went well with the plant sale. We managed to sell out at 60 cents per pound. Even after production costs, that is still far more than what goes in the other end. We also gained exposure for our display business.
We are now looking at future retail and wholesale business. If we continue with only the large size bags, we can reduce our expenses by half. However, the smaller bags make very good Christmas gifts. I have increased the price of the smaller packages to $1 per pound. It is still selling well! I hope to recoup at least part of the feed bill with this venture.
This activity has filled in part of the gap of what can be done with reindeer in the off season. Also, it is important to point out that reindeer raisins are a renewable resource!
[Hmm, I don't see why deer and elk farmers can't do the same thing. As Kyle mentions it does have some publicity and promotional value. It's a great way to keep the kids busy and out of trouble. Ed.]