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Canterbury farmer Sam Zino is well on the way to showing that deer farming is a viable alternative.
The region's deer focus farm facilitator, Wayne Allan, said Mr Zino had achieved most of his goals and had increased production and profit at a time when the venison price was falling.
Mr Zino and his brother, Mark, were selected as the North Canterbury deer focus farm in 2011 for three years. At the time, Mr Zino said he wanted to demonstrate that deer farming was profitable.
''What Sam has shown is that if you're smart about it and you take a planned approach then deer farming can be a highly economic land-use option,'' Mr Allan said.
The Zino brothers run two properties near Hawarden, one on the flat at Flaxmere, and the other on hill and downland country at Kanuka Downs, farming deer, sheep and beef cattle, and grazing dairy cows. The deer are Hungarian hinds mated largely to a Wapiti sire.
Mr Allan said Mr Zino set goals over five to six years, when first selected as the focus farm. Some had already been achieved within three years, including reducing the death rates of the fawns and drafting yearlings earlier and at heavier weights. He was also well on the way to achieving his target of 90% fawning to the stag from maiden hinds.
''He was getting 85% scanning from the yearling hinds when he first started and improved to 93% last year and achieved a scanning of 100% this year, which gives him a chance of achieving the 90% fawning [to the stag].''
Mr Zino was due to tag and weigh the fawns at the end of last month, with weaning set down for late this month, Mr Allan said.
''Then we will get some growth rates, which is quite handy. In the past the growth rates started to drop off approaching weaning, so it will be interesting to see how they go this year.''
Mr Allan said Mr Zino had been weaning three weeks earlier than he was three years ago and ''the weight is being held, so he is three weeks better off''.
While his stint as the North Canterbury deer focus farmer was coming to an end, Mr Zino was already looking to the future and setting more goals for the next three years, including improving the fawning of mixed-age hinds and fawn survival rates, and further improvements in pre-weaning and post-weaning growth rates.
- The final field day as part the three-year focus farm programme will be held at the Zino farm late next month. Mr Allan said the final field day would be an opportunity to discuss what had worked well, what had not worked so well and look at the farm action plan to achieve opportunities which had been targeted for the future.
- David North