What’s been happening around the country? | Issue 196

Feb 9, 2024

I hope everyone’s 2024 has got off to a good start. Certainly there is more of a confident mood amongst the farmers that I have spoken with at stag sales and velvet competitions compared with this time last year (and that wasn’t too bad then either!).

The much publicised El Nino has yet to bite but Central Otago, Mackenzie Country and Marlborough are definitely first in line for any rain that is to be given out. Elsewhere as one South Canterbury farmer put it: “This is the wettest drought that I have experienced!”

Around the Southland stag sales, the NZDFA Executive Committee held its first meeting for 2024 in Invercargill and also met up for dinner with members of the Southland branch committee and partners. This was well received by everyone – with the branch hearing about the activities that the Executive Committee were undertaking on behalf of deer farmers and the Executive Committee hearing first hand concerns from Southland farmers. We hope to get around more branches each year.

The NZDFA Executive Committee also attended a few stag sales down in Southland.

The new government is yet to state its position on the environmental issues that are of ongoing concern to our farmers (Freshwater Farm Plans, stock exclusion, winter grazing, biodiversity, greenhouse gas emissions… have I left anything out?). While it has issued some encouraging statements it is still very much business as usual for the regional councils that enact government regulations.

Last week I accompanied the DINZ Environmental Stewardship Manager, Luka Jansen, to meet up with the Waikato and Bay of Plenty NZDFA branches as well as Vanessa Crowley (Duncan NZ) and then Troy and Jamie at Duncans Processors near Rotorua. Luka’s farming background coupled with her previous work in regional and district council make her an ideal advocate for your environmental concerns. Branch interaction with councils through farm visits can be very effective in showcasing effective and affordable ways for deer farmers to minimise environmental impacts. Luka is always ready to help branches enlighten central and local government on what happens on farm!

Luka (centre) with Troy and Jamie (Duncans Processors).

Speaking of which, while we were up in the Waikato we also ran a Rural Professional Workshop for Waikato Regional Council and MPI On-Farm Support staff. The day kicked off with a farm tour of Wellington Farms, hosted by Holly and Andrew Wellington. Everything seemed to fall into place – the weather was perfect and Andrew and Holly were a wealth of practical information to the attendees. Questions were thick and fast, but the general consensus was that deer farming activities were well managed with a low environmental footprint.

Waikato Regional Council and MPI staff braving the elements out on Wellington Farms.

Velvet competitions are still happening, later in this issue of DFA Stagline there are accounts from the Elk Wapiti Society and Central and Taihape-Ruapehu competitions both held this last weekend. I was fortunate to attend the Central and Taihape-Ruapehu competition which featured not only high-quality velvet but also four dishes of venison from a 6-year-old stag, prepared by chef Tyson Burrows from Rustic Eating House. This was an initiative by the Taihape-Ruapehu branch to see if more value could be created from older (culled) stags. I’ll leave it for the competition report to provide all the (tasty) details but I enjoyed all of the dishes with the burger being my favourite followed by the stew.

Mark McCoard preparing us for tasting venison from a 6-year-old stag at the Central Regions and Taihape-Ruapehu velvet competition, 3 Feb 2024.

As we move well into 2024 there are more exciting NZDFA events coming up:

  • 14 February, celebrate valentine’s day by attending the Hawkes Bay branch’s field day “Deer 2 $ucceed”. Registrations hit 80 last week so this should be a great day.
  • 9 March is the Rising Stars competition hosted by Waipa branch again in Te Awamutu.

Please get to these and other NZDFA events if you can – stag sales, velvet competitions and branch activities are quite unique in the livestock industry and are great social events that offer a break from the farm while still being able to talk all things deer with other farmers.

We can also announce the 2024 industry conference will be held on Wednesday 8 May at the Napier War Memorial Conference Centre, Hawkes Bay followed by a field trip on Thursday 9 May.  A programme will be out in the next couple of weeks and registrations will also be open soon.  More details can be found here:

Best wishes heading into weaning and getting ready for the roar.  El Nino so far is not a big deal, here’s hoping it stays that way.  In fact it’s more likely that we’ll run out of water here in Wellington before the rest of you do!

- Lindsay Fung, Producer Manager

Continue reading DFA Stagline Issue 196, next: Mature and Heavy Stag Opportunities >>

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