What's been happening around the country? | Issue 184

Dec 8, 2022

I hope things are going well for everyone in what is a very busy time of year for deer farmers. We are well and truly into the velvet season and calving is kicking off too. Stag and hind sales are also just around the corner.  

Please take time to look after yourselves and your whanau in what can be a hectic and stressful period… and we’re all wishing for some solid prices for velvet and a good calving season.

Duncan NZ Environment Award - field day at John and Mel Somerville's

November started with another celebration of industry leadership, this time showcasing John and Mel Somerville’s 2021 Duncan NZ Environment Award at a field day on the farm.  Twenty-eight attendees – a mix of farmers, rural professionals, Otago Regional Council and MPI staff and a social scientist – viewed winter barns, 700-year-old podocarps, and extensive areas of retired gullies.    

Prime Southland real estate – John explaining medium density housing for deer

It was very heartening to see the mix of people hearing and seeing deer farming and John and Mel’s story starting with John’s father, Walter, bringing on deer to the family farm.    

Guess how old I am?  A mighty matai next to a pretty impressive kowhai. All going into a QEII covenant. 

Hawkes Bay Velvet Competition

The following week it was back up north to see more industry leadership in the form of the Hawkes Bay Velvet Competition.  While the velvet season has got off to a slow start there were 68 impressive entries making judging quite demanding for Tony Pearse. The heavens opened up during the viewing, but everyone remained dry and warm thanks to Grant Charteris’s newly installed roof over his deer yards. 

Tony Pearse picking the winners – Hawkes Bay.  

A special mention to the branch for its new velvet class: “Fugly” (self-explanatory) – maybe it will take off in other branches next year! A list of winners in the Open Red and Three-Year Red classes for all velvet competitions to date is published later in this newsletter.

NZDFA submission on pricing greenhouse gas emissions proposal

Immediately after this the NZDFA Executive Committee made a submission to the government’s proposal for pricing greenhouse gas emissions.  At the time of writing, it is understood that over 19,000 submissions have been received – we thank all farmers and NZDFA branches that made submissions to this as well as the earlier draft Deer Code of Welfare. A copy of the NZDFA submission on pricing greenhouse gas emissions can be found at: (scroll down to Submissions) >>

SCNO velvet competition

The following week was South Canterbury/North Otago’s turn. A lower number of entries this year compared with the last time (2020) but no drop in quality or size of the velvet on show.  A good write up can be found here >> 

No shortage of quality on show, and a good turn out from SCNO farmers.

Marlborough/Nelson velvet competition

The last competition before this newsletter was published was Marlborough/Nelson (Top of the South) held on a sunny and warm Sunday. While it was a smaller event; 40 entries from nine competitors, the quality on show was as good as the other competitions (in other words very, very good!).  

Judges Kelly Bennett and Nathan Hawker – Marlborough/Nelson.

These events are great social occasions and at a busy time of year this is a great way to spend a half day off the farm and catch up with friends and industry contacts. These three competitions were dominated by the big players, but it is also a good way for commercial velvet farmers to benchmark their production against these specialist operators – many that I talked to were pleasantly surprised.  My apologies for being unable to attend Central Regions/Taihape-Ruapehu, North Island and Kaipara – hopefully next year.

Muka Tangata and Te Pukenga

Recently I attended a meeting of the Primary Industry Training Organisation (PITO) Sheep, Beef and Deer Industry Partnership Group (IPG). The IPG provides input into the development of industry qualifications and identifying industry training needs.  However this year the whole area of industry/vocational training and education has been re-structured into two new organisations:

  • Muka Tangata – responsible for the development of qualifications and standards, quality assurance, and workforce development plans.
  • Te Pukenga – delivering training (now encompassing all of the Industry Training Organisations and Polytechnics).

This is a significant change in how our future farm labour force and farm managers are developed, so please read the notice from Rachael Handy at Muku Tangata later in this issue and contact her if you have any thoughts on how we can ensure there is a system to provide suitably trained deer farm workers and managers.

Reflecting back and looking forward

That’s it from me for the year.  It’s been a hectic and also somewhat disruptive 13 months on the job and still a lot more learning for the role, but overall very satisfying as I get to meet more of you at various branch activities and meetings. 

Looking back there has been a steady stream of farmer-facing events: two branch chair meetings in Wellington, five roadshows (and another two missed due to Covid-19) and physical attendance or video links to various branch committee meetings. However I’m still mindful that there are more branches to contact and will look to engage with more in the new year.  

There’s also been the showcase field days for our 2021 Environmental Award winners, with more planned early next year as well as a good number of DEER 101 field days and regional workshops for regulators. We are really grateful to the farmers that volunteer their farms and time to allow other farmers and just as importantly non-deer farmers to see what a great industry this is and what amazing stewards of the land we have.

And we can’t forget the ever-popular Next Generation Programme – it has a reputation beyond the industry and is the envy of others. Long may it continue… no pressure for 2023 Elk and Wapiti Society and Canterbury/West Coast! (And next year I hope to avoid the flu and attend).

Our farmers are also held in high regard in areas such as animal welfare and environmental stewardship.  Deer farmers have not featured significantly in the three seasons of scrutiny on winter grazing practices in Southland (or Otago and Canterbury) – the few investigations that did occur did not find any issues.  While we can’t slacken off in these areas, as deer farmers you should be proud of what you do and how you farm.

The challenge for NZDFA and DINZ is to raise awareness of the high standards that are already in practice in the industry to the public and the regulators and ensure that regulations recognise this and reward rather than penalise good farming practices.  To do this we will continue to rely on combined efforts of the Executive Committee, Branch Chairs and deer farmers.

Best wishes for the remainder of the velveting season, and for successful calving. Hopefully you can enjoy a bit of a break over Christmas and New Year. 

- Lindsay Fung, Producer Manager 

Continue reading DFA Stagline Issue 184, next: Velvet Comps: upcoming 40th NVC and branch results >>

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