Business Rural Summer 2021

| 39 DEER » Netherdale Elite Red Deer Stud Service to deer industry commended Sue Russell I n 2015, David Stevens’ long years of service and commitment to promoting and improving deer farming outcomes was honoured with Life Mem- bership of the NZ Deer Farmer Assn. David has worked hard, not only on his own stud, Netherdale Elite Red Deer Stud, near Gore, which he and wife Lynley operate, but also given back to the sector as President of the NZDFA from 1999 – 2001, past-chairman of the organisation’s Selection & Appointment Panel and still active on the Southland Committee. As if this isn’t enough, David is also a current Councillor on Environment Southland, stepping off the farm often to attend to these responsibilities. He recalls how in 2001 the situation of Deer farming changed radically. With a shorting of supply of venison in the market in the previous two years driving the schedule to over $10 per kg to a over supply dropping the schedule to under $4 per kg in 2002, this saw large numbers of deer farmers leaving the industry before it started to recover in 2008. “Back in those days both velvet and venison were very much a commodity. Most of our velvet was exported to South Korea with a considerable amount re exported into China. Today, we have the situation where the Chinese purchase half of our velvet product and there’s been a huge change in the processing of velvet into a number of consumer products.” Sadly, at the moment the same can’t be said for Venison. The market has shifted from the reliance on Germany to today having half of the product going into the US market, the prices have reflected the shift away from a commodity to the higher end restaurant market but with the outbreak of Covid and restaurants closing this has had a huge effect on returns to the deer farmer. “I’m afraid that if we don’t soon see a lift in the venison schedule there will be a big hind kill.” David says Netherdale Elite Red Deer Stud, which he and Lynley started in 1979, has always concen- trated on velvet. He recalls the early day, getting some of their seed stock out of Canterbury. And when assessing the situation of the current national production David says there is a lot of op- portunity for gain within the average herd. He’s proud of the level of innovation which has taken place within the industry. “We had a quality assurance programme estab- lished by the early 90’s which was world-first. It was a very go-ahead industry, full of people who wanted to add value and seize opportunities.” In those pioneering early days, huge advances in genetic technologies occurred, with AI, Ebryo transfer and Embryo splitting carried out. Herd’s were culled hard for temperament and to enhance velvet production. Deer were imported from Europe and the UK to strengthen bloodlines. In 1996, Netherdale Elite Red Deer Stud, added a purpose-built Deer Complex out of which to conduct its annual sales and each year it holds an annual sale in January. This year’s event marked it’s 35th sale. He’s proud of the consistently very high standard of velvet produced from stag’s reared on the stud and understand there are several factors that play into achieving this outcome year on year. “You have to be a very good stockman; not reac- tive but proactive and you have to be well aware of what could go wrong. You have to have patience. The more you work with them the quieter they get. They are an intelligent animal. In the early days the deer we got in were quite crazy.” David also acknowledges the quality of veterinar- ians working within the sector. Today, to remove the head of velvet, requires farmers to have com- pleted a velvetting course. The industry is heavily scrutinised by MPI in terms of animal welfare. In an average year, the stud puts up 30 x 3 year- old sire stags and 80 x 2 year-old velvet stags for sale. A top sire stag has recorded a sale price of $90,000. We sell 40 R2 hinds at the sale each year. Asked about challenges David philosophically points out that the biggest one is that, as a stud, you are always competing against your last best performance. “You always want to put up a product that is bet- ter. It’s a continually evolving space.” David says that the aim at Netherdale is to always produce clean heavy sticks of velvet. “It’s like an obsession with me. When you are a deer farmer it is like a drug. Every year I am look- ing at the ones coming through and waiting for the big head.” He looks forward to the annual sale, and provides would-be buyers with detailed information on every animal presented at auction. “It’s important farmers can access all the infor- mation going back about the animal, so I spend a lot of time recording data for them.” Photos: Netherdale sire stag Bronx with a 22 kg head of velvet. A group of three year old stags to be selected for the 2022 sale. Spikers resting in the shade. DINZ QA Accredited Drivers/Crates (Single Decks, Double Decks, Specialised Trophy Crates and Rubber Matting fitted throughout ) For Safe, Honest and Cost Efficient Transporting of: Kill Stock, Farm to Farm, Sire and Trophy Stags. For all enquiries contact STEPHEN GRANT: M. 027 433 5159 E. 461 Glenure Road, RD6, Gore 9776 David & Lynley Stevens | 03 201 6330 David Stevens 0274 331 383 Ben Beadle 0277 281 052 or your local PGG Wrightsons agent MASTER SIRE Bronx 17.28kg SA2 5yrs MASTER SIRE 207/12 NETHERDALE WILTSHIRE SHEEP Available from Bidr online or see website for details 35th Annual Elite Red Deer Sale 12th January 2022, 1.30pm on farm