Business Rural Summer 2021

| 37 Leading the DFA through tough period Farm view at Arawata looking towards Stewart Island in Middle distance. Two year old velvet stags. Hugh de Lacy “Venison exporters are scrambling to re-focus their marketing to the retail sectors in China and the US.” DEER » Arawata Deer Autumn fawns at Arawata Deer Farm. P ending climate change legislation is the big- gest threat to the deer industry because it may encourage landowners to farm trees instead of livestock, NZ Deer Farmers Association national president John Somerville says. “The proposed legislation presents a huge threat to dry-stock farming because, with the carbon price going up there’s a danger that farmland will revert to trees,” John says. “It’s driving things totally the wrong way, and the ramifications – including things like increased fire risk – have not been thought through.” John is leading the DFA through yet another tur- bulent period of the industry’s history, with the glob- al venison trade severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic keeping people out of restaurants, the main venison market, in Europe, the United States and China. Venison prices have slumped even as beef and lamb rocket to new heights, especially in China where there’s huge demand for frozen lamb to fill the protein gap caused by the huge reduction in pig-farming as a result of the swine flu there. “Venison exporters are scrambling to re-focus their marketing to the retail sectors in China and the US in response to the collapse of the restaurant markets in those two countries especially,” John says. A further negative impact has come from chronic delays in global shipping, with exporters facing the danger of chilled venison getting stuck outside key ports in queues of ships waiting to be unloaded, John says. The National Animal Identification Tracing (NAIT) scheme is also causing problems for farmers as it’s adding to the flood of legislative requirements com- ing from the Government across a range of issues, from environmental constraints on fertilising to the continuing battle against bovine tuberculosis in deer and cattle. “Possum control is a key element in suppressing Tb, and last year we had a big outbreak in Hawke’s Bay that we’re still dealing with because some farms wouldn’t take part in some aspects of the poisoning programmes,” John says. John farms deer and sheep on a 170ha block, called Arawata Deer, at Pine Bush in coastal Southland, 35 minutes east of Invercargill, where the main emphasis is on velvetting, supported by a stud herd. About three-quarters of the farm’s business is in deer and the rest revolves around a flock of 530 terminally mated ewes. John’s father Walter Somerville began farming deer in the early 1980s, initially with Rakaia Reds but then increasingly with English bloodlines. “The biggest influence in our velvetting herd is English-cross because, although they’re smaller than the eastern European deer, they’re better for velvet. “Velvet has proven quite resilient in the current markets: it pulled back last season but it’s up a bit this year with demand steady from both the South Korean and Chinese markets,” John says. A key focus of John’s leadership of the NZDFA has been on membership: from small beginnings nearly a decade ago the association’s Next Genera- tion Programme has morphed into a successful social and educative initiative that ensures there will be a younger generation to take over the deer- farming reins. HIGH QUALITY DEER, SHEEP, CATTLEGATES When it comes to the transport of stud livestock you can’t go past Downlands Deer and Studstock. During the past 30 years, we have pioneered the way in studstock transporta- tion with purpose built trucks, calm expert livestock handlers, efficient nation- wide transport routing and now with visual tracking from pick up to delivery. Talk to Downlands Deer and Studstock today to ensure your livestock arrives in the best condition possible.