Like many of his peers, Grant Charteris of Forest Road Farm considers growing deer velvet to be an addiction.Grant explains that the reason for significant growth in the deer industry over the past 40 years is that while growth rate traits and body weight traits have a heritability of about 30%, velvet traits have a heritability of about 80%.
This means the result of selection decisions made in the previous season will show to a large degree in the next generation, consequently the emergence of the velvet is eagerly anticipated.
This heritability is so great that Grant can virtually pick the sire of an animal by eye before a deer’s EID tag is scanned because they breed so much like their sire.“I love it.
When something’s got the heritability of deer you get to see the results of your breeding decisions pretty quickly. “It’s quite infectious so that’s the main driver. I love the animals, I’ve always loved deer so it makes it a pleasure to work with them.”
“They are an intelligent animal; they’re easy to farm if you get all the preventative stuff right, but if the wheels fall off they can be very difficult to farm.”
However, once a farmer has figured out how their sociability works and how they interact within their social hierarachy they can be farmed very effectively and very profitably, Grant says.Grant farms Forest Road with his wife Sally who is closely involved in the operation.
The generational family property, which Grant has been managing for 17 years, covers 327ha of Class 6 hill country at Tikokino, on the eastern flank of the Ruahine Ranges, central Hawke’s Bay.Grant’s late father Bruce started farming deer in the late 1970’s.
The farm supports 500 breeding hinds, 450 velveting stags and about 450 young stock as well as running hereford cattle.The annual velvet harvest typically totals about 2.8 tonnes.“We farm for predominantly heavy-beamed, tidy velvet and we purchase elite stags from other deer studs and also use our best breeding stags as well.
Everything is single-sire mated, apart from our yearling hinds that are multi-sire mated to our very best two-year-old velvet stags.”Fifty per cent of yearling hinds are sold at the on-farm auction mid-December “ so other people have the opportunity to purchase our genetics”.
Along with velvet traits, Grant focuses on breeding a large-framed animal because carcass weights count.Ten kilos of extra carcass weight still makes a big difference so we’ve always focused on using bigger sires as well.”Grant is a member of the Deer Industry New Zealand executive committee.
The main market for velvet is South Korea and China, and for venison in Europe and the United States of America.Demand from the United States has steadily grown during the past 10 years to make it New Zealand’s largest year-round market for chilled venison.
There has been strong demand from American pet food manufacturers for venison meat and bone meal.“The US is definitely growing; it is probably our number one chilled exports earner. The good thing with the US market is that it’s not seasonal like the European market.”
This article was brought to you in association with the following businesses…
- Forest Road Farm