Plenty of positive talk about venison and velvet season

"Positive" and "encouraging" are words that deer farmer and veterinarian Dave Lawrence, of Browns, is using  to describe this year’s venison and velvet season.

"It is all very positive," Mr Lawrence said.

"The venison schedule is about $8kg.

"In seasons gone by, the trend was to peak at about $8 and now there is talk about that being the bottom.

"It is very encouraging."

He said as the industry moved out of the trough, deer farmers were now retaining more stock to  build up numbers, rather than sending them to the works.

"We do have a wee bit of an issue, which is creating a little bit of a shortage of supply."

Mr Lawrence said a piece of news that was "hot of the press" was the introduction of wapiti sires to the DeerSelect sire summary website, the national deer recording database. He said wapiti inclusion on the database was a "big step forward for wapiti and for the industry as a whole".

The  good climatic conditions for spring have seen fawning in some areas start a week to 10 days early.

A revamped single quality assurance programme for farmed deer is being supported by the major venison marketing companies and the New Zealand Deer Farmers Association.

A move to the introduction of a single standard for deer farming means the elimination of duplication between companies running their own programmes.

After a three-year phase in period, compliance with the standard will be a requirement for Cervena venison suppliers.

"Rather than farmers being subject to three or four audits from different companies, it meant there would only be one audit," Mr Lawrence said.

An off-season marketing trial to promote Cervena in the Netherlands and Belgium was also doing well.

Sales in the second year of the three-year trial summer promotion in Belgium and the Netherlands rose to 50 tonnes, up from 15 tonnes in the first year.

"We are getting acceptance outside the traditional game season."

A pilot marketing project, which sought to identify an entry strategy into China for venison is also under way.

"That is a bit of a feather in the cap for the industry," Mr Lawrence said.

More product was heading to the United States as well.

He said diversity was vital to the markets.

"Having one product in one market was a recipe for disaster.

"Having that diversification bodes well for the future."

The positivity in the industry was also encouraging for the upcoming deer sales.

"Southland deer sales attract buyers from all over the country because of the quality of the animals we have.

"We also have some of the best velvet genetics and as people come from around the country to buy them, that is testament to that.

"It is a huge bolster for the industry."

He said he recently attended a conference in Hanmer Springs for NZFDA’s Next Generation programme participants and he was pleased to see so young people passionate about the industry and keen to take over the family deer farm.

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