Spring-slaughtered deer getting heavier

Spring-slaughtered deer getting heavier

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Deer farmers appear to be growing their deer quicker, which means heavier carcase weights for young deer in spring, according to a study by Deer Industry NZ (DINZ). 

Growth rates for stags (~290 g/day) and hinds (~280 g/day) in the 2018 and 2019 seasons were 4 per cent higher than in the average for the previous four seasons, says Dr Solis Norton, DeerPRO manager at DINZ. This amounts to 2 kg of extra carcass weight for a deer killed on 1 November.

The largest gains were seen in the Central North Island and North Canterbury, the smallest in South Canterbury and the southern part of the North Island.

Norton says 1,001,821 ‘young’ deer (under 3 years of age) were killed during the last 10 seasons during the chilled season, from 1 August to 1 November. The vast majority of these are under 18 months old. Sixty three per cent were stags and 37 per cent hinds. 

A year by year analysis shows that chilled season growth rates were steadily higher in 2018 and 2019 than the average of all years before.

The data has been cross checked with NAIT data that records a year of birth against individual animals to only capture yearlings in the analysis, this confirms the broad increasing trend over the last couple of seasons at an industry level.

“These are the positive results of farmers’ efforts to breed for and feed deer so they grow faster.  Many factors contribute to weights at the time of slaughter, including selecting animals for early or late production and seasonal weather conditions. On a national basis it is difficult to draw definitive conclusions as there are many influences in the timing of sending animals to market,” says Norton.

“But we can definitely see progress on individual farms that have a venison focus. This progress and advances in genetics and feeding are being replicated through the venison industry.”