DINZ news in brief 26 August 2020

DINZ news in brief 26 August 2020

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Venison – short chilled season expected: Venison marketers are recommending to farmers that they take the money they are offering during the chilled season. Deer that miss the chilled season cut-off at the end of October will be unable to reach Europe in time for the last game season sales, so while a portion will go to alternative markets, some venison will be frozen. Currently the market for frozen venison is subdued and the prospects post-Christmas are uncertain.   


“Chilled prices during the game season are back on the last few seasons,” says Alliance Group venison marketing manager Terry O’Connell.

“However, demand for sea-freight chilled over the September-October period is steady on the back of limited processing volumes. Beyond that, we are dealing with the unknown. We’re encouraging farmers to take advantage of the certainty of pricing.”

Silver Fern Farms group sales manager Peter Robinson says, “The work we are doing in-market with our customers on our market recovery plan strongly indicates that the chilled season window will offer the best returns for products. Our advice to farmers is to target chilled season specifications. It will be challenging for our customers to find consumers for product falling outside of the chilled season and out of specification, and returns will consequently be significantly lower.” 

Traditionally, hospitality offers the best prices for premium cuts, making chefs and food service the main targets of the industry’s marketing efforts. Now, with hospitality under a cloud because of Covid, all marketers  are making major efforts to build demand in other sales channels – particularly retail and on-line, but these cannot be created overnight and have not replaced the reductions in the restaurant trade yet. These marketing initiatives were covered in DINZ eNews in July.

Winter grazing guidelines issued: The Winter Grazing Action Group (WGAG) has released a document to give short-term guidance to farmers when wintering stock. It is intended to give confidence to farmers who are already meeting or exceeding industry expectations and suggestions to those farmers “who still have a way to go”. The sole focus of the advice is animal welfare. It does not set minimum standards or requirements.

DINZ producer manager Tony Pearse, the deer industry’s representative on the group, says it was formed at the direction of the Ministerial Task Force for Winter Grazing. This followed a public uproar in the winter of 2019 about the welfare of  cattle on winter crops in the lower South Island.   

“On deer farms, animal welfare during winter is not normally an issue. Experienced deer farmers know the importance of feeding deer well and providing them with shelter during the colder months.

Maintaining water quality is the bigger challenge,” he says. “In general, if you are managing deer so they have minimal effects on the environment, you will also be looking after their welfare. Settled, happy deer are less prone to pacing which causes damage to the crop and soil.”

The Task Force identified seven welfare outcomes farmers should aim to achieve, regardless of their wintering system:

  1. Our animals give birth in the right environment
  2. We are prepared for all weather conditions
  3. Our animals can easily access acceptable drinking water
  4. We plan for successful winter feeding
  5. Our animals can lie down comfortably
  6. We work together to provide care to our animals during winter
  7. We find opportunities to improve.

The WGAG’s role has been to identify ways for farmers to successfully achieve these outcomes, bearing in mind the challenges of managing stock during winter. The things that farmers can do in the short-term (the next two winters) are detailed in the group’s document ‘Short-term expected outcomes for animal welfare,’ here >>

The Deer Fact, ‘Intensive winter feeding – minimising the environmental risk’ is here >>

Photo: Tony Cochrane

Essential facts on fresh water: The government’s Essential Fresh Water reforms became law earlier this month. These reforms affect all land users. As of now, livestock farmers:

  • Need to obtain a resource consent before intensifying land use, such as converting forests to farming, or grazing land to dairy.
  • Must protect some wetlands and streams. This means they cannot drain or develop them, except in very limited circumstances.
  • Apply best practice to winter grazing on forage crops. This means getting a resource consent to graze forage crops on more than 50 ha or 10 per cent of a farm (whichever is the greater), or on paddocks with more than a 10-degree slope. Fodder crops sown this spring should be planted with these requirements in mind, to ensure compliance when they are grazed next winter.

More obligations will come into force from next year.

An excellent Beef + Lamb fact sheet is here >>

The government fact sheet is here >>

Free training: The government is providing fee-free training until 31 December 2022 for many primary sector industries in an effort to encourage more people to consider a career on the land. There are several eligible programmes suited to people working in the deer industry. These include the NZ Certificate in Primary Industry Skills (Level 2), NZ Certificate in Agriculture (Pastoral Livestock Production – Feeding) (Level 3), NZ Certificate in Agriculture (Livestock Husbandry - Deer) and NZ Certificate in Primary Industry Production Management.

The Primary ITO is planning to set-up a deer-specific Level 3 programme later in the year in Southland. Anyone interested should contact Southland/Otago Training Advisor Bonnie Fogarty on 027 230 4349 or bonnie.fogarty@primaryito.ac.nz

Rachael Handy of the Primary ITO says courses are set up based on demand in a region. “We can deliver mixed sheep/beef/deer classes and are now delivering some programmes via Zoom. You can also begin distance learning at any time. Farmers and farm workers should flag up their interest so we can arrange more programmes timed to suit seasonal happenings on the farm.” 

Most of the ITO’s programmes offer class time (or field trips) away from farm with like-minded people. (The photo shows participants from a 2016 course at Foveran Station.)

The bulk of the programme is completed on-farm under the guidance of a ‘farmer verifier’ with a Training Advisor providing pastoral care and support throughout.

For more information about these programmes, or to get in touch with your local Training Advisor, please view the Sheep, Beef and Deer Prospectus >>

DINZ reviewing budget: Deer Industry NZ, which is funded by farmer and processor levies on venison, and farmer levies on velvet, is preparing its budget for 2020-21.  

“The Covid-19 pandemic means we are working in extremely difficult times for levy payers, so we are looking at all activities to ensure they align with the new reality. This is particularly true of our market-support activities. We are now in discussion with venison marketers to ensure our plans align with their new priorities,” says chief executive Innes Moffat  (pictured). 

“We are also taking a conservative approach to income for the year ahead, and will operate within our income and not run down reserves further.  This means we will trim expenditure across most areas of the organisation. 

“The brunt of the reduction will fall on the P2P programme, but across our work we need to be more aware of possible areas for cost savings.  Our farmers and marketers are going to be in for a tough time in the year ahead, and we will be looking at all aspects of our expenditure and considering if there is a way to do it more cost-effectively.”

Moffat says DINZ will be taking a good look at domestic travel and some discretionary expenditure. We need to travel, but airfares have increased extortionately. Now we are familiar with the efficiencies of ZOOM/google meet we will consider what is essential before booking flights. Particularly for groups that meet regularly, we think more meetings can be done on-line.