DINZ news in brief | Issue 106

Feb 16, 2024

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Careful navigation ahead in the 2024 markets

This year’s stag sales provide continued confidence in the industry, but the 12 months ahead will need some careful navigation by exporters.

Rhys Griffiths, DINZ markets manager.

Overall, Statistics NZ figures show exports from the deer industry increased by nearly 15 percent in the year ending December 2023, compared to a year earlier, notes DINZ markets manager Rhys Griffiths.

For velvet, aside from the issues with frozen velvet access to China, shipping routes to Asia are relatively unaffected by issues in other parts of the world and underlying demand is still good. 

“Product will still find its way to market,” says Griffiths, noting other issues causing uncertainty such as high inflation, putting downward pressure on consumer spending power. 

“We are working on programmes to change this and really enhance consumption, particularly in Korea.”

Product development there is continuing steadily, “but not charging ahead at the rates we were seeing previously,” he says. 

Turning to venison, the October to December chilled venison season, for which contracts peaked at $10.50/kg last year, “has been positive and inventory has worked its way through the system,” he notes. At this point, expectations are for similar figures this year. 

While the chilled market performance can be characterised as “stable to firm”, the outlook for the post-chilled frozen venison market is less certain. 

Exporters have hosted recent visits from US and European partners, which have gone very positively, reports Griffiths. Their discussions have focused on the year, and prices, ahead. 

Though too early to be able to report any prices yet, when the new season venison contracts are advised at the end of the summer, these will be affected by a myriad of factors. These include exchange rates, ongoing economic uncertainty in the different markets and high inflation still affecting consumer spending, rising costs for processors and farmers, security issues in Ukraine and the Red Sea, the USA presidential election and now drought in the Panama Canal.

These are all in the basket of pressures DINZ will be keeping an eye on in the year ahead, says Griffiths. 

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DINZ looking into stag lameness

Reports of severe lameness in some adult stags has prompted a new study into its cause.

Emil Murphy.

Two DINZ industry capability fund-supported workshops with deer farmers were organised by vet Pania Flint last year (see DINZ eNews, August 2023). Through those, a number of deer farmers reported severe lameness in adult stags, “that is different from what they normally see, doesn’t respond well to treatments and takes a long recovery time,” explains DINZ policy and research manager Emil Murphy.  

With some reporting severe impact, DINZ started work with Massey University and Vetlife Scientific to get a better understanding of the issue. 

“The farmers reported a range of symptoms in affected stags including swollen feet and pasterns, weight loss, overgrowth of the toes and deformity of the feet,” says Murphy. 

“The purpose of the current work is to tease out whether there is a developing issue and hopefully identify the key risk factors that contributes to that.”

The investigation is being carried out in two parts. 

“First, we have carried out a general check with a large number of farms that velvet to understand if they have had any unusual lameness. This is being followed by in-depth interviews with a smaller number of farms,” he says.

Once completed later this year, probably by June, the results will be shared with farmers and veterinarians.

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New online DINZ gateway for deer industry research

The new approach for deer industry research is being reflected in a new and updated DINZ research website page – the new gateway for all things deer research.

Invermay’s weaners. Photo: Jamie Ward.

While the DINZ board is taking a more active role in formulating the research strategy, they will be advised by an advisory panel that includes NZDFA representatives, as well as independently-appointed members, explains DINZ policy and research manager Emil Murphy.

The new page outlines the roles and responsibilities of the different groups. It also highlights key dates, the process for putting applications forward and is the gateway to publicly available reports of work that has been undertaken.

“A lot of papers written for DEEResearch and VARNZ are already available and we are adding more material over the coming months,” says Murphy.

View the new research gateway here >>

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Deer handling wins James Kelly the 2024 DINZ Prize

This year’s DINZ prize and Brent Norwell Memorial Cup went to Smedley Station farm cadet James Kelly in mid-January, for his ability in handling deer and interest in the production of velvet antler.

James Kelly (second from right) pictured with (left to right) Rob Evans, Smedley Station manager, Lindsay Fung, DINZ producer manager and Richard Hilson, chair Howard Estate Advisory Board.

Kelly took advantage of the unique agricultural and farm training opportunity offered by the two-year farm cadet programme at Smedley Station in Hawke’s Bay.

The farm training station’s mission is to ‘develop the very best future farmers’ on its 5,554 total hectares, 3,606 effective. All of the Smedley cadets get hands-on experience, learning essential on-farm skills, including animal health and safety, the raising and breeding of animals and livestock husbandry.

With 500 red hinds mated to red stags and 700 velvet stags, Kelly gained first-hand experience in a sizeable deer operation.

In addition to his $500 cheque from DINZ and his trophy, Kelly was also presented with the 2024 Stevenson & Taylor Prize for the Smedley cadet judged to be the best machinery operator.

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PrITO halves agriculture training fees for 2024

Recognising 2023 was a tough year for farmers, the Primary ITO (PriITO) Has slashed fees for all of its agricultural and horticultural programme in half for 2024.

Andrea Leslie, PrITO: training will continue as planned.

PrITO executive director Andrea Leslie says the organisation recognises training can be seen as a luxury that finances and capacity don’t allow.

“But we also believe that investing in people is the best way to build businesses – particularly in developing the talent that you have.”

PrITO is offering 50 percent off fees for 2024 only, on Level 2 to Level 5 agriculture and horticulture programmes for domestic learners. The discount will only apply for the duration of the programme the learner has enrolled in before 31 December 2024.

Changes to the New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology, Te Pūkenga, of which PrITO is part, will not affect training, she has promised. That “will continue as planned while we work through” how the change will be implemented.

“We are committed to ensuring that organisational changes that need to be made to meet the Government’s expectations do not impact the delivery of our programmes and training for our learners and employers,” says Leslie.

Find out more at the PrITO website >>

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New events announced for ‘Checking-In’ rural recovery project

North Island deer farmers affected by last year’s widespread Cyclone Gabrielle weather damage to the northern and East Coast regions of New Zealand are invited to take time off the farm, and the grind of recovery, and connect with other farmers and growers at several new ‘Checking-in’ events designed to support the impacted rural communities over the next few months.

New events include The Bitches’ Box series running from Northland to Wairarapa and four more Comedy Night shows in February and May.

The Agri-Women’s Development Trust (AWDT) will hold more wellbeing and resilience programmes in late February and March, while Rural Women NZ is celebrating the female heroes of the North Island with their ‘Rest, Refresh and Revitalise’ events to be held during March and April.

Deer farmers are also invited to subscribe to the ‘Checking-in’ tools and tips email series.

For more information on upcoming events or the tools and tips online series, visit

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Shape the deer industry’s future: nominations open for NZDFA posts

Feel you can make a contribution to shaping the deer industry’s future? Nominations have just opened for four New Zealand Deer Farmers Association (NZDFA)-appointed positions and also a producer-appointed spot on the DINZ board.

The 2023-2024 NZDFA executive committee are (left to right) Karen Middelberg, Mark McCoard, Justin Stevens and Jamie Ward.

Two NZDFA Selections and Appointment Panel (SAP) positions are available. Both elected in 2022, current members Graham Peck and William Oliver’s terms have both expired and they have put themselves forward for re-election or retirement.

Similarly, Karen Middelberg (elected unopposed 2022) and Jamie Ward (appointed 2022) are up for re-election or retirement from the NZDFA executive committee.

“The NZDFA needs leaders to maintain an effective voice for farmers at the industry level, pan-agricultural sector level and with regional and central government so we encourage you to think about any of these positions,” says NZDFA chair Justin Stevens.

“This is a chance to shape the association’s future and have a say in the industry as well.”

All positions are responsible for appointing the four producer representatives to the DINZ board, which guides the actions DINZ takes to accelerate the industry recovery and give confidence that the industry has a sustainable and profitable future.

There is one producer-appointed position on the DINZ board open for nomination with Mandy Bell’s position available by rotation. She has indicated interest in continuing in the position.

Farmers interested in taking up any of the NZDFA opportunities can indicate their interest, or chat in confidence, with returning officer and DINZ producer manager Lindsay Fung, at, or phone him on 027-668 0141.

Alternatively, they can talk to current NZDFA executive or SAP members about the positions. Contact details >>

More details and nomination forms are available from Fung, the NZDFA’s office, phone 04-473 4500, or can be downloaded here >>

Nominations close 4pm Friday 22 March 2024.

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Shutters ready: the 2024 Deer Industry Photo Comp is now open

Captured any great deer shots on-farm, or round and about the sector, or thinking of heading out to take some? If so, DINZ would love to see them!

Entries have opened for the 2024 MSD/Allflex Deer Industry Photo Competition, which offers the usual three cash prizes: $500 for the first place; $150 for the second place winner; $100 for third; and a premium gift pack for ‘People’s Choice’.

A new category is also making its debut this year. The new Elk Wapiti NZ (EWNZ) award has been sponsored by the Elk Wapiti Society. Photographs must feature a pheno-typical Elk-Wapiti and will reward the winner with a $150 cash prize and free one-year membership to EWNZ. For this year only, entry for this award category will be free.

Entering is easy, so why not give it a go? Email your entries to, along with your entry form and $5 to cover costs.

Get snapping, but, as always: take care not to put yourself at risk taking photographs.

Deadline for entries: 5.00pm, Friday 12 April 2024More information and entry forms >>

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Registrations open: 2024 Deer Industry Conference, Hawke’s Bay 8-9 May 2024

This year’s Deer Industry Conference will be held in Napier, Hawke’s Bay, on Wednesday 8 May and Thursday 9 May 2024.


Conference will be held in the Napier War Memorial Centre on 8 May, followed by the conference dinner – always a highlight. On 9 May, the Hawke’s Bay NZDFA will host a field day.  

Dinner guests will learn who has won this year’s Matuschka Award, recognising the grass roots farmer and unsung contributor to local area activities, functions and the core spirit of deer farming, the recipient of the 2024 Deer Industry Award, plus the winner of the MSD/Allflex Deer Industry Photo award (details above).

The Deer Industry Award  is presented annually to the person judged to have made the most outstanding contribution to the New Zealand deer industry in recent years.

Nominations and entries for all awards are now open, so get your thinking caps on!

Thanks go to the sponsors who have already put their hands up to support elements of the conference. These include: premium sponsors – First Light, Alliance, FMG and OSPRI; Tier Two – Rabobank, Datamars Livestock and Farmax; and Tier 3 Duncan NZ Ltd.

Others interested in sponsorship opportunities around the event, should contact Melissa Bähler at Positive Events Plus, phone 027 664 3080.

For all other conference enquiries contact DINZ events coordinator Rebecca Norling at, or phone 04 473 4500.

For more Conference 2024 information, registrations and nomination forms >>

Thanks to our conference sponsors:


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Click on the bold links below to get more information about any of the events.

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