DINZ looking for a new deer farm to focus on

The search is on for a North Canterbury deer focus farm.

Hawarden brothers Sam and Mark Zino hosted their last field day on Thursday, March 20, at the completion of their three-year stint as the region's deer focus farm.

However, facilitator Wayne Allan said it had been confirmed the focus farm programme would continue.

Deer Industry New Zealand's (DINZ) Canterbury branch was seeking expressions of interest from a deer farmer either in the Oxford area or south of the Waimakariri River, he said.

''They want to get a more central location to make it more accessible to people.''

North Canterbury stretches from the Rangitata River to Kaikoura.

Before the Zinos' farm, Mendip Hills Station, near Parnassus, north of Cheviot, was the focus farm from 2008 to 2011.

Mr Allan said about 45 people attended last month's field day to discuss the farm's successes over the past three years, what did not go well and future targets.

The Zinos set five-to-eight-year goals at the start of the three-year programme, some goals have already been achieved and others are well on the way.

''Three years is a short span of time for a farm business, so there was strong interest in having another field day in 12 months' time and I'm quite keen to go back after three years and see how it's all going,'' Mr Allan said.

The Zinos set three key targets - increasing the reproductive rates of yearling hinds, improving fawning weights and improving finished carcass weights. Yearling reproductive rates had improved from 70% to 85% this year, just short of the 90% target, while the weaning weight target was to improve from 53kg to 63kg at March 1 and finished carcass weights to 63kg at December 10.

''We changed the playing field by weaning 25 days earlier, but Sam managed a 3kg improvement by the previous weaning date,'' Mr Allan said.

''Sam has revised the weaning target to 58kg at March 1. This is planned to be achieved by advancing the mating and fawning by a further 10 days, and also lifting pre-weaning growth rates a further 35g per day.''

The Zinos planned to increase feed quality, look at further lucerne varieties, seek earlier fawning hinds, to cull more older hinds and to analyse the performance of terminal sires to help achieve this target, Mr Allan said.

Weaners were now being sold 47 days earlier, on October 20 , ''so it is costing less to produce and selling at a higher schedule price''.

''With the success to date, Sam has now revised his target to achieving a season mean of 60kg carcass weight at October 20, rather than December 10,'' Mr Allan said.

A Johne's disease-screening programme for replacement hinds, which was introduced 18 months before the Zinos entered the focus farm programme, ''has had a huge impact on reducing the weaner death rate'' back to 1.5% and 2% in the last two seasons, Mr Allan said.

''Losses had been up to 12% prior to the commencement of the Johne's screening programme.''

The Zinos were presented with the prize for winning this year's Silver Fern Farms ''Pasture to the Plate'' competition for ''supplying animals to meet market specifications.

Anyone interested in the next North Canterbury deer focus farm can contact the DINZ Canterbury branch.

- by David Hill