Rothesay Deer operation grew to take over entire farm

Rothesay Deer owner Donald Greig breeds English and composite deer for the trophy, venison and velvet markets. Photo: Toni Williams
Rothesay Deer owner Donald Greig breeds English and composite deer for the trophy, venison and velvet markets. Photo: Toni Williams
Rothesay Deer owner Donald Greig has been building up the genetics of his English and composite deer operation for more than three decades.

The farm, near Methven, is spread over three sites but the home block has been in the family for two generations.

The land the stag block is on is an extension of the original farm secured by his father, Tom Greig, following World War 2.

That land was part of a rehabilitation block for ex-servicemen to use for farming after the war.

Mr Greig said the name, Rothesay Deer, was named after the town of Rothesay, which is on the Isle of Bute, in Scotland — from where his ancestors hailed.

Mr Greig spent his early years working on the farm, then got involved in the helicopter industry as a deer hunter. He is also a respected deer and alpine species hunting guide.

While his father ran the farm as a cropping and stock unit Mr Greig, keen on the outdoors and deer shooting, developed an interest in deer farming.

About 1978 his father let him have a small corner of the farm for a small deer herd.

The deer operation eventually took over. There are no longer crops on farm, or any other stock.

The stag block alone now covers 62ha, with another 20ha leased nearby for hinds, and the main deer herd, along with elk and fallow deer, is run on 74ha at Mt Somers.

Mr Greig’s operation is focused on the trophy, venison and velvet markets.

It is an intensively farmed operation with a commercial focus.

Mr Greig said it was doing quite well, and reputable game safari park buyers around New Zealand were snapping up trophy stags with impressive tines for international and domestic clients.

The trophy animals are bred for a full-hard antler head and their worth is based on the number and length of the tines — notably different from those bred for venison and velvet, which focuses on beam size, thickness, weight and blood components.

Mr Greig has most sizes represented on farm, and up for grabs during his annual on farm sale.

His best trophy animal has an impressive 700SCI (Safari Club International) score.

‘‘Deer are a bit of a challenge to farm,’’ Mr Greig said.

‘‘You have to watch them all the time [when shifting them]. It pays to keep your mind active if moving deer.’’

The on-farm auction, held on January 13, was mostly for 2- and 3-year-old stags for velvet and trophy operations as well as some yearling hinds.

It was followed by a barbecue gathering.

It was ‘‘a good average sale’’.

The top price on the day was for a 2-year-old velvet/trophy stag, which went for $10,500.

There were around 30 potential buyers at the sale and a few who were unable to attend were bidding by phone, he said.

The industry was facing difficulty in that few young farmers were coming up through the ranks, Mr Greig said.

He had three children, two adult daughters and a young son with new partner Diana, but was unsure if any of them would take over the operation.

He thought the lack of young deer farmers was not helped by tightening regulations governing farming practices and a push to be the best globally.

‘‘We don’t mind red tape but it’s got to be common sense and user-friendly.’’

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