Deer welfare code feedback sought

Feedback is being sought on proposed changes to the code of welfare for deer.

The National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee reviewed the code and determined it required amendments to incorporate advances in animal welfare science and updates to deer farming systems and management practices.

Proposals for changes to existing minimum standards include stockpersonship; animal handling and restraint; feed and water; shade and shelter; farm and off-paddock facilities; hand-reared and orphan fawns; weaning; pre-transport selection and management; disease and injury control.

Proposals for new minimum standards include deer behaviour; selection and breeding; mating, semen collection and reproductive technologies; milking deer; fawning; velvet antler removal; end-of-life management; on-farm humane killing; and contingency planning.

Deer Industry New Zealand chief executive Innes Moffat said a draft code was "a positive forward-looking document".

“Most of the proposed changes to minimum standards are based on good farming practice."

A few changes would need further consideration by deer farmers and veterinarians who had experience with farmed deer, he said.

The deer farming industry was well-known for its high standards of animal welfare, Mr Moffat said.

"So the release of the revised code is not a reflection of welfare concerns. It is simply the latest in a long list of codes of welfare for farm animals to be updated."

The code had a minor update in 2018, but most of the provisions had not been reviewed since 2007.

"This current review will stand us in good stead for at least the next decade.”

Proposed changes include minimum standards for milking deer, more guidance on mating management, managing deer in enclosed spaces and a requirement for all farmers to have a written up-to-date animal health plan based on veterinary advice.

As part of its review, the committee was proposing a regulation prohibiting the use of electro-immobilisation devices on deer.

Deer Industry New Zealand supported the change as those devices were not suitable for deer and their use had long been discouraged, Mr Moffat said.

It also supported the recommendation for a new regulation requiring deer managed in intensive winter grazing systems to have clean drinking water available in the grazing area at all times.

"This is simply a reflection of good farming practice.”

Next month, Deer Industry New Zealand would consult deer farmers before drafting a submission on the code.

Mr Moffat strongly encouraged farmers and others whose work involves handling deer, such as deer vets, transport operators and stock agents, to read the draft code and to make their own submission.

Maple Valley Deer co-owner Peter Allan runs about 1200 red deer with his wife, Dianne, on their farm in Central Southland.

He had been deer farming on the property between Dipton and Balfour for more than 40 years and was on the industry group consulted by the committee during the revision of the code.

"I’ll be surprised if there’s too many people who are annoyed about what has been put in because it’s very fair across the board."

A lot of the proposed code was "common-sense".

"We are putting all the onus and responsibility on the farmers, as it should be."

For a deer farm to remain "productive and profitable" there was "no room for complacency".

"There’s no room for cowboys."

Mr Allan encourages deer farmers to read the draft code and make a submission, even if they were in support of the proposal.

"It’s their future."

Consultation closes at 5pm on November 10.


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