How do I select the stud breeder(s) from which to purchase stags?
Identify stud breeders with breeding objectives that best match your commercial herd's production goals. If you have any breed/strain/type preferences also consider that in your stud breeder choice. Finally evaluate potential animal health risks introducing new stock to the farm. It is important to feel that you can trust the stud breeder(s) you select – after all, they determine the future direction and production potential of your deer herd.
Chosen the breeder(s) - now what?
Buy in accordance with your breeding plan. When purchasing sire stags it is important to stick to herd production goals in order to genetically improve the herd (e.g.venison or velvet or trophy). Do not be swayed by other factors than the herd's sire stag requirements, no matter how good the brochure photo looks. Consider major health risks that may be introduced with new stock, such as parasites, Johne's Disease, TB status (essentially covered by an ASD (animal status declaration) form). Discuss these risks and their mitigation/minimization (such as drenching, Johne's Disease testing etc) with the stud breeder.
Role of economic indices
The purchase of stags for venison production should be largely based on the appropriate economic index. Prior to purchase, identify more stags than will be required (say 20% more) based on their index, and then select the precise number required, based on what is commercially available and within budget at the time. It is important to remember that it is often a team of stags being purchased, so the key consideration is the average index of the entire group of purchased stags. This average index value will have a very high accuracy for a mob of approximately 10 stags.
What information should the stud breeder provide me with?
When using DEERSelect to make informed decisions based on indices and BVs, be aware that the stud breeders can and should provide you with genetic trends and linkage graphs to demonstrate key genetic information about stags for sale. Ask your breeder to show you their latest herd genetic trend graph for the index or BV of interest, and compare that with the national trend for that index or BV. Look at the stud's linkage on the across-herd analysis linkage graph, as this gives an estimate of how well genetically connected the herd is with other herds. Review the age structure of the hind herd, and the number of sire stags used. This should give you an idea of potential rates of genetic gain and herd diversity in the stud herd. More information on using DEERSelect to purchase breeding stock can be found here.
Facial Eczema (FE) tolerance is an important consideration for North Island farmers when purchasing stags. It is unlikely that stags from the South Island have been exposed to FE, so there is a possible risk of buying FE-susceptible sires. However, this is not a consideration for South Island farmers, and there is little risk associated with purchasing stags from both North Island or South Island stud breeders.
New stags: introduction and management
New sires stags represent a large investment in the farm's future productivity. Care should to be take to introduce these new stags to the farm system following purchase. Select specialist DeerQA approved transporters to deliver the new stags. Do not join with other resident mature stags immediately, otherwise there is risk of injury or death associated with fighting. Remember that newly purchased stags, no matter how mature, have not established their place in the farm hierarchy and will be under a degree of stress until familiarised with the new environment. For this reason it pays to bring the stags onto the farm at least 6 weeks prior to mating and follow best practice on the mating management of stags.