The behaviour of deer is as fascinating as their distinct biology particularly their antlers, the leanness of their carcases, their diet preferences, their seasonality and their environmental impacts. These differences are why we have a deer industry. Deer are not small cattle nor, for that matter large sheep, so running a deer industry business well is dependent on distinct deer production, processing and product knowledge and management systems.
To improve industry value, we need to innovate constantly. Innovation that makes an appreciable different to the industry as a whole is dependent both on new ideas and giving confidence to those expected to try them that they will be worthwhile. DINZ generally supports user confidence by commissioning research projects whose design takes into account the diversity of operations within our industry.
DINZ commissions deer industry-good research with its long-term research provider AgResearch. AgResearch is the Crown Research Institute established to improve the value of New Zealand's pastoral sector and as such it provides science expertise to industry.
DINZ and AgResearch have a special partnership arrangement that sets out how they will engage together to bring about industry-good outcomes through research. Under this arrangement, the parties have agreed standard contracting terms and each project they wish to do has its own schedule of specific terms setting out what work will be done, why, when and the funding contributions from each partner. The parties manage all the projects as a complete programme and endeavour to select complementary projects.
The deer industry invests in research through the Deer Industry New Zealand Research Trust. The main funder of the Research Trust is DINZ, whose revenue is derived from levies of venison and velvet. The Research Trust's deed provides that the deer industry is the beneficiary of research and it sets out the categories of research that the Trustees may invest in. DINZ manages Trust affairs but investment decisions are made by the trustees on the basis of affordability and whether the research meets one of the permissible categories. Trust funds are payable to research providers such as AgResearch.
AgResearch takes the view that investing in deer industry innovation meets its strategic objectives and will bring value to New Zealand. We agree! AgResearch therefore invests its own Crown-derived funding in deer research and therefore deepens the total pool of funding.
Occasionally projects may be suited to funds available from other sources and DINZ and AgResearch engage in identifying projects for which external funding applications have a reasonable prospect of success.
DINZ and AgResearch convene four groups in four subject-matter portfolios to make recommendations on the research DINZ and AgResearch should invest in, to co-design the research projects, to monitor the projects and to oversee the implementation of their outputs to achieve outcomes for industry. These groups are called Innovation Steering Groups and they are organised as follows.
|AgResearch leader||DINZ leader|
|On-farm||Geoff Asher||Phil McKenzie|
|Environment||Richard Muirhead||Lindsay Fung|
|Improved breeding||Sheryl-Anne Newman||Sharon McIntyre|
|Post-farm||Sue Zydenbos||Rhys Griffiths, Nick Taylor|
Innovation Steering Group portfolios
The members of the groups are appointed by AgResearch and DINZ and are a mix of farmers, veterinarians, venison and velvet processor/exporters representatives and active and retired scientists.
The terms of reference for these groups are found here >>
The co-leaders of the groups will regularly meet to share information about the activities and interests of their groups with a view to research being as joined up and efficient as possible.
The funders have selected a steering-group recommendation model as the foundation of the deer research system as they consider that user engagement with scientists is crucial to identifying the research opportunities that are likely to have the greatest industry uptake. The scientists will need to design project outputs in a way that has a strong likelihood of user buy-in for the industry members to support a research idea.
From idea to impact assessment
DINZ and AgResearch no longer treat research as starting with a services contract and ending with a research report; they now consider research as a cyclical process starting with the innovation steering groups discussing opportunities right through to assessing what difference a project made to industry value.
Where research projects are funded in accordance with a group's recommendation, DINZ is committed to ensuring that if the outputs warrant delivery, delivery will occur and how this happens will be guided by the steering group.
As individual business can carry out research into how to improve their own operation that may not be applicable to other businesses, DINZ considers that the use of pooled levy and Crown funding is best applied where it can bring about value for a significant segment of the industry and those businesses would not invest in the work in question, whether individually or together. This type of research is called "industry-good".
By being a 'neutral' commissioner, DINZ can ensure that work is designed to take account of the diversity of industry participants and does not favour one commercial business over another. DINZ can also apply specialist research management skills that it would not be efficient for individual businesses to engage.
DINZ and AgResearch agree that the work they commission needs to be that which will deliver significant impacts for the industry. Forecasting impact is a difficult science but impact assessments will be required to enable the funders to prioritise between research recommendations.
Research subject matter
DINZ has not mandated any particular types of work that the steering groups must recommend. However it is likely that projects will cover themes that have been researched in the past, such as farm system efficiency, nutrition, animal health and welfare, understanding and mitigating environmental impacts, optimising breeding strategies and techniques, supporting genetic selection to meet industry and farm system breeding objectives, product processing techniques, understanding product composition and properties, improving product quality.
It is likely that research will continue to span the spectrum of research horizons from near-time (highly applied), medium-term and long-term projects. The number and cash value of the medium- and long-term projects invested in will determine the amount available for new projects every year.
Venison vs velvet
There is no split in funding for velvet versus venison research. We are an integrated industry with almost every farm producing both venison and velvet and the balance of industry value received from venison and velvet is constantly changing, so there is no obvious reason to set aside funding amounts.
DINZ and AgResearch will determine the best provider for the research that they invest in. DINZ's preferred provider is AgResearch but from time to time projects will be recommended that require specialist capability not found in AgResearch or not available in the relevant timeframe. In these cases, DINZ may commission a different provider or AgResearch will sub-contract the part of the work needing external input to the other provider.