Goudies Station near Reporoa is setting a new trend in deer farming, proving venison production can be more profitable by using the right genetics, pasture management and technology.
The 2,000ha Landcorp property is an award winning Romney sheep stud, but over recent years its small commercial deer unit has shown staggering improvements with high productivity and profitability.
Just over 700ha of Goudies Station is deer fenced with the farm’s 1,250 fawning hinds and 1,196 fawns integrated alongside, and often grazed behind its sheep flocks. Since introducing a new re-grassing and fetal scanning programme, the deer weaner weights on the property are streaking ahead of most traditional deer farms, with heavier kill weights and profit margins.
Goudies Station has consistently recorded high deer weaner weights over the past three years. While many farmers around the country are weaning deer between 50-55kgs and growing them out to 100kgs live weight, this year Goudies Wapiti R1’s weaned at 66.9kgs and killed at an average of 119kgs.
Manager Ken Burt is confident of the answer.
“It’s all based around using very good genetics; starting out with high maternal production is critical, and then combining hybrid vigour through the Wapiti/Wapiti cross stags has produced a heavier weaner that’s capable of growing faster and yielding higher carcass weights. Our Wapiti weaners are consistently killing out at 59% yield and the Reds at 56%, so over 300 animals that soon adds up. Over the past four years the Wapiti stags have given us around a 5kg ($44) live weight advantage over the Red stag at kill time and they’re up to kill weight 21 days earlier than the Reds, which means a financial return of over $13,000 extra each year,”
Goudies fawns and weaners are rotation grazed and grown through the winter on a combination of grass, green feed short rotation rye grass and ryecorn, with additional supplements of sileage. Grass grub and three years of drought blew out a lot of the farm’s new grasses so Ken and his team have engineered a re-grassing programme where a significant number of new grass species are now growing and doing well. “It’s a huge prospect to increase the productivity of the farm.
Fetal age scanning was introduced on Goudies Station this year and Ken sees the technology as a valuable tool in lifting weaner quality to the next level.
“By scanning our hinds early we’re able to separate the earlier fawners from the later fawning hinds and then rotate them through high quality pastures. Hinds and fawns get out onto better pastures earlier, which rapidly improves our fawn growth through to weaning.”
Goudies contract kill about 920 weaner and retain 250 for replacements. With numbers like that, there are no plans to extend herd numbers but rather lift their targets.“We appear to have hit upon a system that works very well here, however it’s not just my efforts but also my staff that run and manage the deer with me that enable us to get these very good results.”
Goudies has been using Focus Genetics for more than 14 years, 100% of the farm’s maternal hinds are Focus derivatives, with the terminal Wapiti and Red Stags introduced 12 years ago.
The mating plan is simple: Goudies Red Stags are mated with half the farm’s youngest hinds and the Wapiti Stags over the older half. It’s a recipe that appears to be working: maternal production has significantly improved. Mixed aged hinds are recording 98% in fawn at scanning, and R1’s 94%.
“Fertility here is at a high standard and we’re very happy with our fawning rates. The next step is to try reducing the time the stag’s out to six to seven weeks, then our production will really be cranking,” said Ken. “I’ve been fortunate to have a situation where the animals have expressed their genetic potential. Using Focus Genetics has been integral, and has allowed us to take what little advantages in the market, there are.”