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He's Bringing Another New Industry to New Brunswick

"Bill Stanley"

There is a lovely area about an hour's drive from Saint John, New Brunswick that is called Interlake. This beautiful low-lying region is home to many creatures of the wild, particularly deer. Deer are everywhere. A lot of them in Bill Stanley's backyard. He's a deer farmer.

"Yes, there are a lot of deer out here." Bill agrees. "But I donít farm the wild ones. The deer I farm are from New Zealand where there are approximately a million deer behind fences being farmed for breeding and venison production. "

The imported deer are called Red Deer as opposed to the New Brunswick variety of White-tailed Deer. The two are genetically different and do not breed. There are other differences:

"The meat is more tender, less gamey and altogether very acceptable to the North American palate.Ē

But how did a graduate in electrical engineering working as a consultant and executive for the cable television industry in Canada and the United States turn to deer farming?

"It started for me when Tony Pierce, New Zealand's Minister of Agriculture, visited New Brunswick promoting deer farming. I was intrigued and thought it might provide a new industry for this province. So I went there and saw what the New Zealanders were doing. I found deer farming is a $100 million business there. We flew allover the country, visited abattoirs, saw where diet supplements were being made from antlers, met with deer farmers and visited the areas where Red Deer were once hunted for bounty."

The result was the formation of Fundy Deer Farms Ltd. and the importation of New Zealand deer for breeding stock.

"Initially, what we have here is a breeding farm with stock to sell to other people who will in turn sell to others and through that pyramid-breeding program provide a thriving New Brunswick industry. We're already selling stock to farmers in Maine as well."

Always looking for new opportunities and doing it successfully, Bill Stanley realized the importance of allowing others to invest in his latest brainchild.

"I don't expect to make a profit for about five years while we're building up our herd. A female or 'hind' is worth about $3,000 at present but that will drop down to maybe $500 as production rises and supply meets demand. There is such a demand in the finer restaurants in North America for venison that it never has a chance to hit the supermarkets."

Aside from its unique flavour, sweeter and more refined than beef, what makes it so popular that people will pay such high prices for it?

"It is low in fat and cholesterol and ideal for people who want a high protein meat but don't want the high number of calories."

Sounds ideal. But how do the deer from New Zealand adapt to the colder Canadian climate?

"Very well indeed. No problem at all. We started off with a nucleus of 470 females and 30 stags; we now predict that by selling only the stags and retaining all the females for breeding stock, and importing more, we should have 7,500 in three years, 10,000 in six years and 20,000 in 10 years."

Forty youngsters were being born at the time of this interview. On 150 acres of fenced land, the deer look after themselves without much supervision and only occasionally have to have veterinarians assist them in calving.

Bill Stanley is not just a deer farmer of course. Besides owning deer farms and radio stations, he is deeply involved in the cable television industry in New Brunswick, the U.S. and, more recently, in the United Kingdom. His Fundy Cable Ltd. and affiliated companies serve approximately 88,000 subscribers.

"But I am concentrating quite heavily on my new venture. I think that is the key to success in any business. You have to concentrate on what you are doing, and hire good people who know what they are doing."

There are other deer farm operations in Canada. Notably Canadian Fallow Deer Company in British Columbia, which has already pre-sold venison to Japan for the next five years. They raise a different type of New Zealand deer. The Red Deer on Bill's farm cannot breed with the strays that occasionally come up to the fences but they will breed with elk and that is why they are not allowed to be shipped past the Manitoba/Ontario border where the elk begin to roam.

Advice for the new person starting out in business?

"Do your research and make sure you have a good product and one that will fly, when we started in the cable business the regulations were very uncertain. Now it's the same with the deer industry. We have to proceed with caution, to establish profitable methods of operation, make sure we can maintain a very high quality product. This is a whole new industry for us and will take time and close monitoring through the series from breeding to meat production to exporting."

The message then is quite clear for the entrepreneur, no matter what field he or she gets into, know the product thoroughly, work with experts, concentrate on the operation and expect to wait three, five, or even ten years before you can ultimately expect success.

Bill Stanley, cable and radio station owner, deer farmer, employs about 450 people and grosses in sales about $45 million with an annual growth of about $15 million a year.

His biggest kick?

"We are just delighted for once to be able to export our technology to other countries both in the cable end of things, and our newly acquired expertise in deer farming. I feel really good about that!" He's another Canadian Achiever.



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