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Deer Industry conference showcases industry's best

Deer Industry conference showcases industry's best
Deer Industry NZ chair Mandy Bell presented the Premier Elworthy Environmental Award to Richard Burdon with chief judge Janet Gregory of MPI

Around 200 deer farmers and marketers attended the annual Deer Industry Conference in Ashburton on May 10.

The punchy one-day conference hosted by the Canterbury West Coast branch of the NZ Deer Farmers’ Association (NZDFA) and Deer Industry NZ (DINZ) was packed with 14 speakers.

This included reports on the latest developments in the velvet and venison markets overseas as well as exciting results from research projects run on deer farms.

The day ended on a high note with the inspirational Sir Ian Taylor founder of Animation Research, whose message was to “Bugger the boxing, pour the concrete anyway”.

Deer farmers also had plenty of opportunities to connect with their peers from other parts of the country for the first time since the last industry conference in Invercargill in 2021.

Deer industry awards

The industry’s annual awards were presented at a gala dinner at Hotel Ashburton.

The 2023 Deer Industry Award went to Hawke’s Bay deer farmer and vet Richard Hilson.

This year’s NZDFA Matuschka award for unsung contributor went to Robbie Bruce of the Taihape-Ruapehu branch.

Gill McLean won the MSD/Allflex photo award for her beautiful picture of a curious fawn.

Environmental awards

Otago farmers Richard and Sarah Burdon took home the deer industry’s premier environmental award.

They won the First Light award for sustainable farming with a customer focus and also took home the premier Elworthy Environmental Award for their work on Glen Dene, a 2989-hectare station that runs from the shores of Lake Hawea to the surrounding high country.

The third-generation farmers run sheep, beef and deer as well as a campground and trophy hunting business on the farm.

The judges said the Burdons had a well-run farm with a clear customer and sustainability focus. They also commended them for the early adoption of carbon credits and the high level of contribution to, and interaction with, the local community.

South Canterbury farmers Lyal Cullen and Marion Neill won the NZ Landcare Trust award for

excellence in sustainable deer farming.

The judges were impressed by the extensive shelterbelts, woodlots and riparian areas and the pair’s willingness to trial a range of plants to see which species worked best. Their in-depth knowledge of deer wintering at Springdale and long-term water quality testing that showed minimal impact from farming was also noted.

North Canterbury’s Scott Hassall won the Duncan NZ award for his high level of innovation as farm manager of Iffley in the Waikari Valley.

The judges commended Hassall on his focus on environmental projects and in-depth knowledge of the whole farming system.

Manawatu farmer Mike Humphrey from Green Hill won the New Zealand Deer Farmers’ Association next generation award, while fellow Manawatu woman, Simone Hoskin from

Five Hawks Farm won the Gallagher technology and innovation award.

The Streamlands Export award for environmentally sustainable velvet farming was won by Waikato couple Ross and Monique Moore.

Post-conference farm visit

About 75 deer farmers visited Darryl Butterick’s Staveley Road farm to hear how the severely impacted deer farm had recovered from the devastating Canterbury floods two years ago.

It also allowed North Island farmers to learn from their South Island counterpart’s experience and a conversation about practical alternatives for fencing off waterways on-farm.

by Sharon Davis