Genetics, farm management seen as key
Dave Lawrence and Donna Day says their desire for excellence lies behind the multi-awards success of their Tikana Wapiti Stud, which nestles amongst Central Southland’s fertile hills, They believe this shows through in the traits inherent in their livestock and in the comprehensive list of awards and trophies won over the past two decades.
During that time Tikana bulls have achieved the heaviest weight and largest beam circumference in every age group class in the annual Elk and Wapiti Society velvet and antler competition.
The stud’s bulls have also won champion of champions six times and been reserve champion four times.
Tikana is the present New Zealand record-holder for velvet weight, with 26.4 kilograms produced by one of its star sires, Nepia.
“We’ve won the national velvet competition against all breeds three times now,” Dave says.
This history and the all round quality of Tikana Wapiti’s bulls and cows means they are again likely to be highly sought after at its annual sale, scheduled for the Browns property on January 16.
While the awards are gratifying for the couple, the most satisfying thing is seeing Tikana-bred bulls owned by other farmers and their progeny scattered through the age-group results in the competition. Dave attributes the quality of Tikana’s livestock to genetics and farm management.
His background as a veterinarian has led him to te conclusion a lot of diseases and poor health in livestock relate principally to inadequate feed.
“Feeding stock well not only provides a huge boost of performance, but also to their health,” he says.
“We would like to think we’ve got the seasonal requirements of deer pretty well sorted now, and we try and feed the optimum.”
Although Dave and Donna, like most deer farmers, eagerly anticipate seeing the results of their genetic selections in the next crop of velvet, their real goal is to breed a great all-round animal.
“We probably get more excited about the things we are selecting for that you can’t see,” says Dave.
“We are also selecting for growth rate and eye-muscle area, which in the deer industry is a much more exciting livestock trait than in any other sector.”
This is because the deer-progeny test shows a high correlation from the eye-muscle area breeding value to tenderness of venison, eating quality, meat yield, and bone-to-meat ratio.
“These are pretty crucial. If you’re trying to produce venison and you can have 10 more kilos of meat on a carcass that’s the same weight, then that’s got to be of real interest to the processors and buyers of that product.”
Since 2005 Tikana’s annual on-farm auction has been the platform for buyers to take the opportunity introduce a variety of top genetics into their livestock, says Dave.
“We are planning on having about 20 wapiti bulls, mostly three-year-olds, and a few four-yearolds.”
The bulls will include two past winners of the national Velvet and Hard Antler Rising Stars competition for the best two-year-olds.
“Since that competition has been run, it has been a Tikana two-year-old that has won it. I would expect they would top the sale.”
Also on offer will be mixed-aged cows which have also been highly sought after in recent years.
“People are prepared to pay for quality and every year we’ve been able to offer some pretty outstanding individuals.”