Smart co-operation helps with deer success

John Falconer of Clachanburn station says being part of Advance Parties and Deer Pro has been pivotal to the success of his wapiti stag sale. Photo: Alice Scott
John Falconer of Clachanburn station says being part of Advance Parties and Deer Pro has been pivotal to the success of his wapiti stag sale. Photo: Alice Scott
Life moves at a million miles an hour for Clachanburn’s John Falconer. Thank goodness, he says, wife Mary is there to keep her foot on the brake ‘‘just ever so slightly.’’

When Southern Rural Life caught up with Mr Falconer, the dust had settled after the annual Clachanburn Wapiti deer sale the day before. It is located at Puketoi, a solid drive into the back of beyond from Ranfurly.

Breeding top quality terminal sires for venison is just part of the Falconer’s operation these days but Mr Falconer said the buyer turnout and level of enthusiastic bidding was heartening to see.

The Falconers have been involved in an organisation called Advance Party — supported by the Sustainable Farming Fund, and co-ordinated by Deer Industry NZ. Mr Falconer said Advance Parties are small groups of farmers working together to share their productivity challenges and come up with the answers.

‘‘We had to commit to measuring and sharing our production information with the deer farming community,’’ he said.

‘‘And from that, word of mouth has been key. Sharing our information on Advance Parties has been very instrumental and people are travelling to buy from us because the numbers have done the talking.’’ Deer Pro has been another important information-sharing tool the Falconers have used to help their business.

A branded unit of Deer Industry New Zealand, it was established in 2007 to promote the control of Johne’s disease in farmed deer in New Zealand. Mr Falconer said 99% of farmed deer processed since the start of 2007 are in this database and linked to their farm of origin.

‘‘Our clients have had really good kill data recorded on Deer Pro and that has led to a lot of interest in our sires too,’’ he said.

Clachanburn also has a Red Deer stud which Mr Falconer said are not sold but kept for the station’s own velveting and venison programme and trophy stags are retained for the Falconer’s trophy hunting business.

It is here, talking about the guiding side of the Clachanburn operation that Mr Falconer’s eyes begin to light up.

Last year, Mr Falconer did 17 hunts for paying clients on the station and he says there is a huge demand for more.

‘‘We are at the consent step of building a lodge on the farm specifically for hunting clients,’’ he said.

The clients, Mr Falconer said come from all walks of life. ‘‘Some helicopter in, shoot a trophy stag and then leave again. Others I pick up from their airport and they want to walk the hills for a day or two and enjoy a more intrepid hunting experience.’’ The lodge, Mr Falconer said will be targeted for the ‘‘higher end’’ and fully catered.

‘‘I am really enjoying planning this development, my mind is always ticking over thinking about ways to make it a business I can really sink my teeth into in the years to come, I probably get a bit carried away, but Mary’s great. She keeps me on the straight and narrow,’’ he said, laughing.

-By Alice Scott

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