Soil erosion is a significant threat to New Zealand deer farming’s well-earned image of environmental sustainability  and erosion management techniques need to be continuously improved,  consistently applied and accountable via the deer farm’s Land and Environment Plan (LEP)

Deer and erosion

Erosion along fence lines created by deer pacing has been a characteristic feature on deer farms that is rapidly diminishing as farmers have adapted deer to captivity and learned how to reduce their responses to behavioural stress or disturbance. Deer also contribute to erosion in their hierarchical competition and play, exposing soil and digging (especially on slopes), as well as by wallowing and congregation at camping areas.

Erosion of soil that is able to enter waterways affects water quality as the eroded soil particles transported in storm runoff have large amounts of phosphorus attached. Research has shown that while deer farming may result in less nitrogen-loss to waterways from farmland than from cattle or dairying, deer farms tend to have greater phosphorus loss that other types of pastoral farming (McDowell and Wilcox 2008).

Sustainable deer farming addresses practical ways of preventing, managing and remedying erosion damage caused by normal deer behaviors. 

Preventing erosion

The key to avoiding erosion by deer is in understanding deer behaviour, keeping them content and appropriately managing the various classes of deer in erosion prone areas. 

Other best management practices include:

  • Avoid overstocking – stocking rates and intensity of grazing should be appropriate to the various Land Use Capability (LUC) zones of the farm.
  • Shift deer from any risk areas at the first sign of any damage as this will rapidly escalate.
  • Avoid adjacent mobs
  • Consider paddock size, shape, contour, slope and location to other disturbances to prevent deer pacing the fence lines and causing erosion.
  • Give the deer several camping options.
  • Don’t put young stock into vulnerable paddocks.
  • Integrate other stock (fallow deer, sheep or cattle) in erosion-prone areas.
  • Plant trees to provide shade, shelter, visual barriers, stock food, help to control erosion and improve land stability.
  • Consider permanent retirement from grazing of some or all areas of sensitive or erosion prone land, by fencing off and integrating production trees.

For more detailed recommendations on minimizing erosion refer to the NZDFA Landcare Manual 2012


Show me the science

McDowell, R.W., Wilcock, R.J., (2008). Water quality and the effects of different pastoral animals. New
Zealand Veterinary Journal 56, 289-296.