The red deer's origin traces back to European soil. They were introduced into New Zealand in 1861. Without natural predators and with New Zealand's lush topography, deer populations flourished. By the early 1900s overgrazing had caused a serious reduction in the forest cover and erosion. Bounties provided the incentive to cull the herds. By the 1960s, up to 100,000 deer carcasses per annum were being recovered, providing the New Zealand entrepreneurs with a supply of wild or feral venison to market to European destinations.
The demand for this feral venison led to the live capture, domestication and commercial farming of red deer. The first commercial deer farming license was granted in 1969. Today there are 1,000,000 deer being farmed on some 5,000 ranches. This year red deer ranching generated 196,000,000 worth of export business for New Zealand, with a positive long-term outlook for continued growth. (Venison earned $130,000,000 other products earned $65,000,000).
New Zealand has spent over 20 years building up sufficient breeding stock levels to ensure a consistent and reliable supply of venison and by-products to existing and growing markets. The New Zealand Game Industry Board forecasts that the increasing world demand for this healthy and superb-tasting "gourmet red meat of the future" will outstrip world supply for many years to come.
New Zealand Red Deer have been commercially farmed and profitably harvested for venison and other valuable end products for over 20 years. These domesticated red deer are gentle-natured and easy to care for. As livestock, they efficiently convert pasture to protein, producing a high proportion of lean meal to live weight.
Male red deer, or "stags," can grow to a weight of 550 pounds, while the females, or "hinds," can reach 210 pounds at maturity. Stags are processed for venison at about 15 months to 18 months of age weighing approximately 240 pounds. The dressed carcass weight is about 135 pounds. In comparison, the white-tailed deer is about two-thirds the size of a red deer.
Female red deer have an average expected productive life of 14 years. They begin breeding as yearlings and on the average produce one offspring per year, with an even split between male and female.
Red deer are pastured in summer with little or no feed supplements, while in winter full feed supplementation is provided.
The red deer have proven to be the most exciting and successful introduction of a major livestock animal in the last century.
North America is ideally suited for the development of the deer farming industry. We have a large land base suitable for farming, an availability of quality feeds and a climate in which deer thrive. Agriculture is North America's largest industry. However, product saturation in traditional agricultural segments has caused farmers to seek diversification opportunities which can provide long term growth and profitability.
Unlike the New Zealand industry which relies on exporting their products, our markets are right here in North America. We consume large quantities of red meat. North Americans are becoming more health conscious. There is a strong trend towards new and healthier eating habits especially aimed at reducing fat and cholesterol levels. Farm-raised venison offers a superb taste and nutritious red meat alternative.
Red Deer farming in North America has seen steadily increasing growth since its beginning only 8 years ago. The limited supply of breeding stock and the predictable growth of herds through reproduction will result in a gradual and strong growth of the industry. It is for these reasons that the North American deer farmer will be well poised to supply breeding stock to an industry with a projected strong and constant growth and demand well into the 21st century.
New Zealand is a country with only three million people, and quite isolated from much of the world. They farm 35 million cattle, 85 million sheep and one million deer. The number of deer farmed is still increasing in an effort to supply increasing world demand for venison. In comparison, Canada and the United States have a population of 270 million people. We farm 125 million cattle, and currently have only 55,000 deer with which to build our commercial deer farming industry. New Zealand exported to the United States 1.2 million pounds of farm-raised venison.
For more information about getting started in Red Deer farming, please call the Old World Venison Co. at (320) 749-2197