Grit, value chains and rainbows: focus on the future at Deer Industry Conference 2024

May 24, 2024

Grit. Passion and perseverance for long-term goals is what has got the deer industry to where it is today and will help where its products will go along future value chains, Deer Industry NZ (DINZ) executive chair Mandy Bell told delegates at this year’s Deer Industry Conference. There was a positive buzz around conference.

Mandy Bell chairing the DINZ board panel.

Bell welcomed over 175 – many of whom took the day off-farm, and others out of the plant or the office – to attend the 2024 Deer Industry Conference jointly staged by DINZ and the NZ Deer Farmers Association (NZDFA), held 8 May in Napier’s War Memorial Hall.

Ahead of conference, Bell had talked about the pull from the markets being more important than the push of domestic environmental regulations, which are there to enable trade.

“We’ve got some tremendous opportunities in front of us as an industry and doing it together is the best way for us to ensure we maximise those opportunities,” she told farmers in her welcoming address.

Organised around the conference theme ‘Incredible legacy – the past, the present and the future’, delegates heard from around a dozen speakers, attended three out of four workshop sessions and also managed to network with old and new colleagues over morning tea, lunch and afternoon coffee in the packed programme. Proceedings were kept tightly to time by Hawke’s Bay personality Dave ‘Toddy Talks’ Todd’s MC and facilitation skills, which added a light touch to the programme.

Toddy keeping everyone in order at the awards dinner.

With farmgate returns relatively stable, compared to other sectors, there was a positive buzz of energy in the room, with attending deer farmers generally happy with prices and the sector’s overall position. While celebrating legacy, however, the focus for business was firmly on the future.

In her ‘State of the Industry’ address, Bell perhaps understated that, “It has been another big year”.

The new five-year ‘Thrive with Passion’ strategy is now enacted, and the DINZ office has been restructured  and relocated to make the organisation ready for the future. The last piece will slot into place on 4 June, when the new chief executive will start. She was not able to name the new incumbent at conference as they were still working through, “external processes,” she reported.

Externally, the DINZ team will actively engage with value chains and “other externalities as we navigate regulatory and market changes,” she said.

On-farm, DINZ is underway with the Integrated Farm Planning (IFP) programme, with support from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) (see story below), she announced. That will, “help you link and streamline the different components of your farm planning,” she told the farmers present.

Looking ahead and anticipating change is essential for “maximising opportunity from the rapid changes occurring in our industry and our markets,” Bell said.

She ran through key areas the DINZ executive is working on currently, including a recent market visit to China and South Korea and access issues for frozen velvet with China which, although a speed bump, “longer-term, it provides an opportunity for us to establish a more reliable and sustainable supply chain.”

Science and research-led development is important to respond to consumer demand, she noted, as is meeting “the evidential standards our trading partners increasingly require of us with respect to emissions reductions and other market trends.”

Working with other industries on regulatory change is another big area of work for DINZ.

“Exciting times” are ahead, she said “as the industry adopts value chains across venison and velvet and sets out to innovate and change to continue to play a leading role in our primary sector.” 

Pointing to the need for grit, the “key factor for success,” Bell said that is “passion and perseverance for long-term goals. It is working hard together to create shared value and realise opportunities.

“We all need to be part of this. If we want there to be change, we need to work to create it, together,” she said.

Rainbows came out for the deer industry’s descent on Rangimoe Station in Kereru, Hawke’s Bay on Thursday 9 May. Bell (centre) with Ru and Kate Gaddum, owners of Rangimoe Station and the fifth generation of the family to farm at Kereru, and hosts for the NZDFA Hawke’s Bay branch hosted field day on the Thursday. Photo: Lynda Gray.

A star turn from Murray Matuschka

Murray Matuschka.

A crowd highlight at the end of the conference programme was 88-year-old industry veteran Murray Matuschka’s hilarious keynote speech on his lifetime of experience and the conference theme ‘Incredible Legacy – the past, the present, the future’. NZDFA’s newly created life member relished the opportunity to round off the day in a new stand-up comedy career sharing many anecdotes from his past in the industry.

Matushka’s valued contribution to the deer industry has spanned over 60 years, after which he concluded: “Deer don’t like me, I want my money back!” to much laughter.

What a great way to finish off the main business of the day, which gave industry food for thought and renewed passion.

Many thanks to all of the sponsors who made the memorable event possible.


Back to Industry News