Demand for stags reflects deer farmer confidence

Confidence in the future profitability of venison and velvet production has flowed through to the market for sire stags, with strong sales reported throughout the country, says Deer Industry New Zealand (DINZ).

Breeders report a marked improvement on last year’s results. Although no stags broke the $100,000 mark, average prices were up strongly for most sales, several by more than 50 per cent. Overall clearance rates were 94 per cent, compared with 83 per cent last year.

DINZ chief executive Dan Coup says venison schedule prices to farmers normally peak each year in October before the last chilled shipments leave for Europe for the annual game meat season. This season, he says, prices have continued to rise into January, with the published average now around a record $10.30 a kilogram for a carcase in the preferred weight range.

“The drivers in the market remain unchanged from last year. Namely, lower production in New Zealand, successful diversification by marketers into new year-round markets and very strong demand for venison from the United States, both for grilling cuts and manufacturing grades,” Coup says.

DINZ Asia market manager Rhys Griffiths says demand for velvet from the two main markets, Korea and China, has been strong this season. Prices have climbed back to levels reached two seasons ago before changes in Chinese hygiene regulations led to a loss of buyer confidence unrelated to the long-term demand for New Zealand velvet.

“Total velvet exports reached $43 million in the 2015/16 season, increasing to $59 million in the 2016/17 season. With a lift in the velvet price and the forecast increase in production, another increase in the value of velvet exports is expected this season,” Griffiths says.

Two new entrants to the sire breeding business, Rupert Red Deer near Geraldine and Forest Road Farm in central Hawke’s Bay, had their inaugural stag sales this summer. Each had strong sales with high clearance rates, averaging nearly $5,000 and just over $11,000 respectively. Both specialise in breeding for velvet antler.

With the venison schedule at an all-time high, demand for stags with high breeding values (BVs) for carcase growth rate has also been high. Peel Forest Estate, South Canterbury, is one of many breeders that has reported strong buyer demand. The stud sold 49 of 50 of the ‘Forrester’ maternal venison sires it had on offer at an average price of about $7,500 – about 20 percent up on last year.

Sires for venison production bred by Ruapehu Red Deer in the central North Island enjoyed a total clearance and an average price of nearly $7,000, up nearly one-third on last season. At Wilkins Farming’s South Island sire sale on 15 January prices were up 35 percent.

Also on 15 January, Lochinvar stud, Te Anau, sold all 25 wapiti bulls on offer at an average $5400, 10 per cent up. Manapouri’s Connemara Wapiti also had an excellent sale, with a total clearance and prices up 46 per cent.

These sales were followed on 19 January by the sale of a $38,000 wapiti bull at the annual sale at Tikana Wapiti, a record price for the stud. The 387 kg bull, Forecaster, was the winner of the three-year-old elk/wapiti category at the National Velvet Competition last year after cutting 12.2 kg of velvet.

Tikana owners Dave Lawrence and Donna Day, of Browns, Southland, says Forecaster also ranks in the top 1 per cent in the independent Deer Select ‘terminal sire’ index for venison production. Lawrence says the inclusion of wapiti in the Deer Select database was a milestone for the breed, with wapiti breeders being able to accurately assess genetic traits that suit their farming objectives.

Coup says some farmers are increasing the area they have fenced for deer. He also says that DINZ is receiving a few requests for information from new farmers entering the industry.

Interim figures for the year ended 31 December 2017 reveal that females have dropped below 48 percent of the total slaughter, a good indication that the national hind breeding herd is being rebuilt – putting an end to a gradual decline that began in 2005.

“With consistently strong venison and velvet prices, the industry is in a confident mood,” Coup says.

 

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