Micheal and Sara Prescott, along with their children Emma, Madison and Carter, raise cattle,  added reindeer to their cattle operation. Contributed Photo.
Micheal and Sara Prescott, along with their children Emma, Madison and Carter, raise cattle,  added reindeer to their cattle operation. Contributed Photo.

Douglas County, Mo., farm opens the gates to visitors for a unique agriculture experience 

VANZANT, MO. – A traditional family farm takes on an entirely different look during the “most wonderful time of the year.” 

Sara and Michael Prescott, a third-generation cattleman, and their three children own and operate the Prescott Family Reindeer Farm near Vanzant, Mo. The more than 200-acre farm is primarily a cattle farm, where they raise Angus-based commercial cattle using embryo implant method. Their kids, Emma, Madison and Carter, maintain their own herds of Maine-Anjou, Angus and Charolais. The kids show their cattle and a few pigs during the fair season. 

Why add Reindeer to an already busy farm? 

“We visited a reindeer farm about six years ago, and I fell in love with the reindeer,” Sara said. “They are so unique. My husband told me if I could get a reindeer, we would start a reindeer farm.” 

Sara accepted the challenge, and they acquired their first two reindeer from Alaska about three years ago and have since acquired three more, one of which is a bull named Winter. Their first full breeding rut just concluded, and Sara is excited that they should have several reindeer calves in seven and half months.

At their previous cattle farm in Central Illinois, Sara explained, they focused on educating the public about the beef industry and had people from all walks of life come out to their farm. Combining her passions for reindeer and educating a diverse audience of visitors gave birth to a unique agritourism destination experience. 

The Prescott Family Reindeer Farm opens for the season on the Friday after Thanksgiving and closes on Dec. 23. During the season, guests are welcomed to the locale on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. 

There are crafts kids can do and take home, snowball “fights” and other outdoor games, a concession stand featuring hot cocoa and snacks, many photo opportunities, story time and pictures with Santa and Mrs. Claus, and a meeting with the reindeer. Every year, the Prescotts add something new to the reindeer farm so returning guests get a new experience. Sara focuses on unique items in the gift shop, preferably made by local artisans. Future additions may include a farm-to-fork dinner experience, events in the fall to see reindeer calves, and possible shop expansion to include local vendors. 

During the summers in Missouri, extra care must be taken to keep Reindeer cool. The Prescotts implement extra fans, shade and pools of water, which the reindeer love to play in. Contributed Photo.
Contributed Photo

Raising Reindeer in Missouri has its challenges. Like their wild relative Caribou (Rangifer Tarandus), Reindeer are indigenous to much colder climates. Reindeer are the only animals with noses entirely covered with hair, and their hooves are extra hairy, too. These attributes help them deal with extreme cold and icy conditions. 

During the summers in Missouri, extra care must be taken to keep Reindeer cool. 

They implement extra fans, shade and pools of water, which the reindeer love to play in, Sara explained. August and September are especially challenging because the days are getting shorter, which triggers the reindeer to begin growing their coats out, yet it is still very warm. 

“The biggest enemy to reindeer (here) are ticks because of all the diseases that ticks carry,” Sara said. 

The reindeer herd is kept in a dry lot and fed special feed and alfalfa hay. Ticks are controlled by a combination of insecticide applications and chickens; the Reindeer get frequent spraying and are dewormed every few months. Reindeer are browsers, preferring leaves, twigs, and bark to grass. 

Reindeer are the only member of the deer family routinely taught to hitch. They do pull sleighs up north, the driver of which may or may not where a red suit. Reports of flying reindeer are unsubstantiated by science. Sara said their reindeer, although very tame and broke to be led, have not been trained to pull a load of any kind. There are no plans to make them work that hard. Sara describes their five Reindeer (Tinsel, Mistletoe, Noel, Snowflake and Winter) as “pampered pets.”

Reindeer grow bigger more impressive antlers in each successive year, which are shed annually. Sara said they plan to keep the first few years sets of antler sheds for educational purposes. “It will be fun to compare them as time goes on,” Sara said.

In addition to the Reindeer and about 80 head of cattle, the Prescott family farm is home to two llamas, two alpacas, a small herd of miniature horses and one charismatic mini donkey. The flock of chickens that run around under the reindeer’s feet get more than their share of attention from visiting children. 

The family maintains a social media presence on Facebook, under Prescott Family Reindeer Farm, where would-be-visitors can find more information, special event and the eventual reindeer calf pictures. 


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