The Ministry for Primary Industries Sustainable Farming Fund (SFF) is contributing up to $225,000 over the next three years to Advance Parties, a half million dollar project designed to lift deer farming profits. The balance of funding comes from Deer Industry New Zealand (DINZ).
DINZ chief executive officer Dan Coup said he was grateful for the support provided by the fund, which has appreciated the novelty and the merit of the Advance Parties concept.
“We see that as a strong endorsement for our overall deer farming profitability strategy – Passion2Profit.”
Six Advance Parties have already been formed, each involving six to eight farmers, who are trialling the concept. Each farmer identifies on-farm issues that are limiting profitability and works with other farmers to come up with solutions.
“Before getting involved, farmers agree to adopt management changes, record the outcome of those changes and to share the results with the wider deer farming community. DINZ provides an independent facilitator for each party, technical back-up and crunches the on-farm data,” says Coup.
In its funding application, DINZ says that with improved genetics, feeding and animal health the industry could double its export sales in seven years, with little increase in inputs.
This is highlighted by Statistics NZ figures that show an average fawn survival to sale percentage of 74 percent, a figure that has remained constant for 20 years.
“It is up to the farmers in each party to decide what issues they want to focus on. But if it was increasing fawn survival to 85 percent, that alone would increase net farm income per hind by $40. Or $16,000 a year in a typical 400-hind herd,” says Coup.
He says deer farming is a unique industry with a proud history of innovation, from the capture and domestication of wild deer through to breeding for improved antler and venison genetics.
“Leading deer farmers have revamped the farming systems developed by the pioneers and are achieving fawn survival percentages in the mid-90s and venison yields 25 per cent higher than their peers.
“They have shown that the potential for greatly improved deer farm profitability is out there. Advance Parties are an innovative way for mainstream deer farmers to tap into that potential.“
Coup says the design of Advance Parties reflects the fact that deer farmers prefer to learn from each other.
“This is about farmers helping farmers. It’s not just a new name for a discussion group or monitor farm programme. Participants commit to sharing production information and to making changes in their farming systems. Also the decisions on what changes are needed on each of the farms are made by the farmers themselves, not by a panel of outside experts.”
The Advance Party concept will be refined, based on the experience of the 2014 trial, and will be fully launched in 2015.
Material supplied by DINZ.