Deer farm now a global heavyweight

Deer farm now a global heavyweight
A three-year-old velvet sire at Peel Forest Estate; Three-year-old Forrester stags (top right)

With an esteemed history stemming back over thirty years Peel Forest Estate is one of New Zealand’s largest and most progressive deer farms running over 9,500 red deer.
Originating from a beef and sheep farm when owner Graham Carr first purchased and developed the property, Peel Forest Estate is now lauded as a global ‘heavy hitter’ in the deer industry.
Nestled between the Orari and Rangitata Rivers and at the base of Little Mount Peel, the Estate is comprised of 1600 hectares of highly productive flat land and 1200 hectares of rugged mountainous country.
The hill block is home to about 2000 of the younger stags during the rut and provides a natural environment for the deer to thrive and perform.For the rest of the year the hill block is home to a commercial venison herd where Peel Forest tests its genetics.The majority of breeding hinds breed and fawn a short distance away at Mount Somers.
All Peel Forest’s deer are DNA profiled, enabling substantial gains to be made in their production. Embedded in this high-quality herd is a world-class stud producing the very best genetics for velvet, trophy and venison.
Eight years ago Graham’s stepson, Mark Tapley, returned home to join the team and is now stud manager responsible for the breeding programmes, marketing and sales.With a penchant for all things technology, Mark modernised the paper based recording systems with computerized database, recording and analytical systems.
“The amount of data we record here is huge and being able to access that data and analyse it at your finger tips is a key difference. Every animal is electronically recorded and with state-of-the-art recording technology we can make extremely well-informed decisions on breeding strategies.”
The level of data collected now gives Mark and his team quantifiable information, taking guesswork out of breeding decisions. With the venison side of the business, Peel Forest supplies two lines of genetics mainly in the form of live stags to the commercial farmer in NZ – Maternal Forresters and Terminal B11.
“Our flagship category of deer venison is Forresters,” says Mark. “They’re an English bloodline and we have a very large base of English deer here. They’re the most hardy and robust type of Red Deer and can handle the adverse conditions. We have an on-farm auction coming up on the sixth of December with 55 Forresters being offered.
Other Forresters will be offered for sale privately.Increasingly seen as the ‘one-stop-shop’ sire, Forresters provide excellent velvet and produce good growth and kill-out rates.

Deer farm now a global heavyweight
A mob of commercial weaners.

“The terminal ‘B11’ line is for heavy, fast growth-rate animals to go to slaughter. We privately sell about 50 of those each year. The ideal situation is that clients use Forresters to produce females, then put a B11 over the female with all progeny killed – because they’re thumpers.”
Velvet genetics play a huge part in the Peel Forest picture and its largest revenue earner, last year harvesting 22 tonne of velvet. This year a harvest of 25 tonne is expected.By far the largest harvest out of any farm in the world, Peel Forest mainly exports to South Korea and China and now deals directly with a large South Korean health food company.
“We dry the velvet in Christchurch and then air freight it out, so we’re taking it past the commodity stage and adding value. The Koreans are using our farm as the flagship farm and like buying from us because of our robust recording and quality control and our world-class facilities. Our traceability goes all the way back to the stag that supplied the velvet.”
Not only does Peel Forest want to continually improve its genetic line for its own benefit, but they also supply live stags to the NZ market and semen/embryos to the international markets.
An auction in January every year selling three-year-old velvet stags showcases the superior bloodlines on offer. Trophy genetics is where Peel Forest started and built its name. For 30 years now, Graham has been developing a unique style of antler that is Peel Forest Trophy.
“The ‘style’ of antler is extremely important, focusing on keeping the heads looking traditional with long clean tynes and a wide sweeping structure,” explains Mark.
Reflecting on Peel Forest’s success over the years Mark says it is a fusion between good genetics and having the right team.“Without the staff we could not do what we do and we have a very good genetic base to work with. Those two combined are a complete winner.”
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