Deer farming in New Zealand
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Deer farming in New ZealandT.R. Giles aa Consolidated Traders Ltd. , WellingtonPublished online: 23 Feb 2011.
To cite this article: T.R. Giles (1975) Deer farming in New Zealand, New Zealand Veterinary Journal, 23:3,39-40, DOI: 10.1080/00480169.1975.34189
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00480169.1975.34189
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1975 NEW ZEALAND VETERINARY JOURNAL
DEER FARMING IN NEW ZEALAND
T. R. GILES'"
RED DEER, like other animals in New Zea-land, werc introduced by early settlers to provide some of the sport they knew at home, and the first imported dee.r -seven red deer yearlings - were brought from Scotland in 1871. It is believed the sponsors were the Otago Acclimatization Society.
Thexe were no predators except man and the deer flourished in the very fav-ourable New Zealand environment. A few decades later big herds were causing con-cern to runholders - in othe.r words, the deer population explosion had begun.
The commercialization of deer began in a small way in the late 1950s and by 1972 the value of exports exceeded $5 million. In 1973 exports amounted to ap-proximately 1 % of New Zealand's export earninlls. This growth may be likened to that of the forest industry in its early years, and with a similar and enlightened policy of management and development could we:ll attain comparable importance in the future.
It would be fair to' say that it was the visualization Df this commercial poten-tial that inspired the idea of deer farm-ing.
The history of dee.r farming began in New Zealand some :W years al!o with the confinement of nine red deer fawns, some On a private prope;rty at Waikanae about 40 miles north of Wellington, and others at Island Bav. It would be true to say, that, as with aerial to~)dressing and the hunting and recDvery of deer by helicopte.rs, New Zea-land was the first country in the world to pioneer the concept arid development of deer farming. pur~ng those pioneering vears, de:ter-
mmatIOn, reSUlting from dedication, was necessary to overcome the manv chal-lenges associated with an entirely new venturE' .. The challenges involved the draft-ing and introduction of the Deer Farming
*T. R. Giles, Consolidated Traders Ltd., Wellington. Paper presented to the 50th Annual Conference. N.Z. Veterinary Association, Nelson, February 1974.
Regulations, the Game Packing House and Export Regulations, the complex negotiations which resulted in the estab-lishment of duty rates and general import provisions for New Ze,aland and other countries, as well as the creation and ac-ceptance of the Game Packing. House and Exporters' Award as opposed to the Freezing Workers' Union. Last, but not least, was the satisfactory completion of negotiations with the. Inland Revenue De-partment for appropriate taxation relief and export incentives.
Whilst these accomplishments were more directly related to the production, marketing and financing of venison, they had a vital influence on the developmerit of the deer farm concept and it is note-worthy that New Zealand is the only ~Duntry in the world where deeir farming IS regulated by parliamentary legislation.
From the successful Waikanae and Island Bay experiments has developed the most advanced dee;r farm in the world. This is situated at Maroa some 32 km north of Taupo and is controlled and managed by Consolidated Traders Ltd. Efficient management and careful attention to animal husbandry detail have resulted in the final de:velopment of a manageable herd of deer and this may be regarded as a unique accomplishment.
The deer at Maroa have come from many parts of New Zealand and are fairly representative of the various strains of red dee;r found in this country. Some wild deer have been enticed into the deer farm from adjoining areas.
Because red deer are bigger and more. susceptible to the presence of humans, t~ey have proved to be a better proposi-tIOn than other spe.cies for deer farming purposes. In addition, they are more readily available, and more "adaptable to changes of environment, but they are re~ stricted by the wild range of the species. it is interestin~ to note that deer do nDt lose their wild instincts. The farming of fallow deer with re;d deer is illegal under existing regulations and for the same rea-son red deer cannot be farmed in North Auckland.
40 NEW ZEALAND VETERINARY JOURNAL VOL. 23
Deer farndng operations have shown that farmed deer display little fe:ar of humans and do not exhibit continual nervous alertness so characteristic of deer in their wild state. However, during the mating season, stags tend to become aggressive and caution is recommended.
Deer farms are conducted to investi-gate all aspects of deer farming: these include the careful cross-breeding of the various strains of deer to deve:lop the most suitable type of animal for game meat purposes, to determine standards which would ensure the venison will meet the provisions of the health re.quirements of importing countries in the same man-ner as beef and lamb, to determine measures to avoid risk of disease to which confined animals are prone, to dete.rmine the response to controlled and supple-mentary winter feeding in terms of food conversion efficiency, to establish breed-ing and calving pe:rcentages. The object of all these investigations is to confirm the belief that wild deer can be farmed as a commercial proposition.
The Animals Act (1967) permits com-l11.ercial farming cf deer under strict con-trols. One of these re.quires that facilities for holding deer for veterinary inspec-tions and diagnostic tests be provided. and another requires that suspected disease in farmed de::.r must be reported to.a government veterinarian or livestock instructor. These provisions are under-sdindable and accepted because of the valuable information which can be pro-vided.
As with other farmed animals, red deex can be mustered, yarded and drafted with comparative ease for purpose;s such as drenching or spraying.
The 730 ha property at Maroa has fenced enclosures of various size which are
used in a rotational manner to graduate the wild animals through the progressive stages to the fully domesticated deer. The land varies from rolling to medium steep hill country with marginal growth and native; bush.
Twenty years of deer farming have shown that as much venison as beef can be produced per hectare and, bearing in mind that nothing is wasted - hides, tails, eye teeth and other by-products are sold either locally or overseas - the eco-nomics of commercial deer farming are most .encouraging. An added factor is that the dressed carcass weights of farm de.er are about 50% greater than those of wild deer and this growth improvement can be attributed to sustained feeding in peaceful conditions without the ine.vit-able seasonal checks and other torments suffered by deer in the wild. The ultimate role of the venison farmer is to provide anothe;r source of protein for the future and it is this important aspect which, more recently, has stimulated consider-able interest in deer farming potential in countries such as Scotland, South Africa, Korea, Sweden, Russia and Canada.
It could be argued that the health and safety at exotic fO'rests could depend on exotic animals. By using deer to' restrict undergrowth and to reduce fire hazards by controlling growth in fire breaks, the dividends would be a healthy forest and a profitable secondary industry for the forest owners. In addition, the develop-ment of the deer farm concept, together with control and management of the wild animals, ultimately could provide the means to control noxious weeds on mar-ginal lands more effectively and at less cost than present methods. These im-portant possibilities must depend on en-lightened government decisions.