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Copyright 2005, Board of Trustees, University
Fact Sheet RF-AC002
Cooperative E\tension Service
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
Alternative Opportunities for Small Farms: Alligator
Thomas J. Lane and Kathleen C. Ruppert2
Alligators have long been popular for their skins and
meat. As early as 1890 alligators were hunted in Florida,
and an alligator farm was established as a commercial
enterprise in 1891. However, in recent years alligator
farming has received renewed interest as a growing
aquacultural industry. This is especially so in Florida
where several new alligator farms have become
established within the last ten years.
Alligator farming as a viable agricultural industry has
several distinct advantages. It offers an efficient way to
directly utilize meat and meat products which are not
suitable for human consumption.
Alligator farming also offers a potential income to
farmers for a product that has not been exploited, and
allows the use of land that in the past has been a
nonproductive or marginal wetland. Alligator farming
does not have adverse effects on the environment, and does
not require large quantities of land or water.
The world market for crocodilian hides should be
approximately 2,000,000 by the year 2000. This
projection is based on a reported world market for
300,000 crocodilian hides in 1980 and a modest annual
increase in demand of approximately 10% to 15%. The
value of raw products from a 6' to 7' alligator is considered
to be approximately (+ -) $300. Value of the finished
products may be in excess of five to ten times the raw
product value. Finishing and merchandising of raw
alligator products offers the opportunity for a major
industry. An important added benefit with the alligator
industry is that marginal or at present non-productive land
can be utilized.
Demand for alligator hides and meat is well
established in our society since the last century and
doubtless will continue in the future.
Labor and Capital
Those who are interested in establishing an alligator
farming operation are advised to have a thorough
knowledge of the business and method of operation before
committing themselves and their capital to this enterprise.
Specific areas one should have knowledge about are: state
and federal regulations, land requirements, building
requirements, operating expenses, marketing methods,
handling and harvesting of alligators, supply sources for
food and equipment and long and short term financing.
1. This document is Fact Sheet RF-AC002, one of a series of the Extension Administration Office, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and
Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. First printed: June 1987. Reprinted: January 1994. Reviewed: July 1997. Please visit the FAIRS Web site at
2. Thomas J. Lane, associate professor, Large Animal Clinical Sciences; Kathleen C. Ruppert, assistant professor, Florida Energy Extension Service, Cooperative
Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, 32611.
The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer authorized to provide research, educational
information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function without regard to race, color, sex, age, handicap, or national origin.
For information on obtaining other extension publications, contact your county Cooperative Extension Service office. Florida Cooperative
Extension Service I Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences / University of Florida / Christine Taylor Waddill, Dean
Alternative Opportunities for Small Farms: Alligator Production Review
The American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)
appears similar to other reptiles in the physiology of
reproduction. The development of the ovarian cycle
occurs once each year between March and May in the
northern Hemisphere. Egg laying occurs during June and
July with hatching in August and September after
approximately 65 days of incubation. Ideal temperature
for egg incubation is 86 F. The female alligator must
mate each breeding season in order to lay fertile eggs.
Follicles that are not ovulated during a breeding season
undergo regression. Ovulated follicles are fertilized and
travel via the oviduct to be laid 45 days later. All eggs are
laid at one time.
Alligator reproductive rates in the farming
environment have not reached the efficiency which occurs
in the wild population. In order to attain a hatching rate of
1000 young alligators each year, it is estimated that 70
females and 25 males will be required in the breeding
herd. Current figures from present day farms allow some
assumptions to seem likely. That is: 70 percent of the
females will nest each year and average 35 eggs per nest
which will have a 60 percent hatching success rate.
These alligators should reach a length of 5 to seven
feet within a time frame of 36 to 42 months. A thousand
hatchling alligators are produced each year with a
mortality rate not to exceed 10% over the three year
growth period. This relates to nine hundred marketable
alligators each year after the third year of operation. In a
heated growout environment, the food consumption will be
approximately 30 pounds of meat per year during the first
year of growth; 125 pounds of meat in the second year and
250 pounds in the third year. Animals in the breeding
herd will consume approximately 400 pounds of meat per
animal per year.
Alligators are cold blooded reptiles which become
dormant or inactive in cold weather. Alligator farming as
a commercial enterprise is most suited for the Southern
and Southeastern areas of the United States. However, it
is feasible that some areas in other States with the correct
facilities may be adapted to a farming enterprise.
There are two different approaches to alligator
farming. The first method is to have a completely
integrated operation which maintains its own breeding
stock, hatching facility, nursery facility and a growout
house. Following laying, the eggs are collected,
artificially incubated and the hatchling alligators are then
raised in the growout house to a marketable size which is
between 5 and seven feet.
The second method is to have just a growout
operation (sometimes referred to as a feedlot). With this
operation, hatchling alligators are purchased from a farm
or ranch specializing in the production of hatchlings.
Hatchlings may also be available from State agencies
which regulate the wild population.
The following specifications and costs for a low-cost
alligator farm are based primarily on actual practices of
some alligator farms. The farmers are able to have lower
costs by doing much of the construction work themselves,
buying used equipment, using less space per alligator, and
using lower cost building designs. The low-cost farm
requires four years to reach full production and should
produce 900 alligators per year.
A utility building of 800 square feet is constructed at
the beginning of the first year of operation. The building
has an incubation room, space for a cooler and freezer, and
a storage room. There is no office or nursery. The
hatchlings are transferred to the grow-out building
immediately after hatching.
This farm also has three grow-out buildings. The first
one is built at the beginning of the second year in order to
house the alligators during their first year. The building is
of concrete construction with two rows of pens. The
height of the building is less than four feet and access is
through hinged roof panels from the perimeter of the
building rather than through a central walkway. The total
area of the building is 2,000 square feet.
A second grow-out building of 7,300 square feet is
built at the beginning of the third year and a third building
of 10,300 square feet is built the fourth year. The design
and construction of these buildings are the same as for the
Operating an alligator enterprise is very expensive.
Large capital investments are required over a period of
three to four years while no income is being generated.
Because of the newness of the industry, there is no
certainty that the production methods used will achieve the
Alternative Opportunities for Small Farms: Alligator Production Review
In the alligator industry, there appears to be potential
for making money, provided that production efficiencies
are improved and costs are minimized. Therefore, every
effort must be made to increase reproduction rates,
selectively breed animals for good hide, meat, and growth
rates, improve feed conversion rates, and incorporate
improved technologies. At the same time, continuing
efforts must be made to keep costs low.
Alligator farming is not a "get rich quick scheme" but
rather one which requires careful planning and dedication
to the principles of quality agricultural production. While
there appear to be opportunities to make money, it must be
recognized that additional quantities of meat and hides
produced may depress prices unless efforts are made to
develop the markets for these products. This is especially
true for alligator meat. The American consumer is not
accustomed to eating alligator meat, so market
development activities may have to be undertaken to
ensure adequate demand at a good price. For hides, a
limited market already exists, therefore some market
development may be necessary to ensure a good price.
One must remember that the price of skins is dependent on
many factors throughout the world. Intemations prices
and the world economy can serve to decrease hide prices
as well as increase them.