DINZ news in brief 14 May 2021

DINZ news in brief 14 May 2021

Friday, May 14, 2021

Farmer VelTrak regos rolling in: A steady flow of deer farms are being registered on the VelTrak website. Registration opened on 3 May and is needed for all farms that will be cutting and selling velvet in the 2021/22 season.

“The VelTrak help desk has been busy but no significant issues have emerged,” says DINZ QA manager John Tacon. “Callers are ringing to say they want to change the name of their farm business or the name of the principal contact; that they can’t find the name of the vet practice they use; that they no longer farm deer; or that they don’t use or have access to the internet.”

He says changing names is easy enough for the helpdesk to sort, but finding solutions for farms that are not on the internet will take more time, as the options are different for each farm. However he’s confident that each farm will find a way to register on VelTrak.

Most vet practices are now registered with VelTrak. This allows farmers to link their farm to the

practice that handles their NVSB requirements, simply by clicking on its name. Tacon encourages remaining practices to register, so farmers can link their farm to their vet practice and register with VelTrak in one go.

Field test developed for deadly deer disease: University of Minnesota researchers have developed a field test for chronic wasting disease – an incurable fatal disease of deer. The presence or absence of CWD in properly prepared tissue samples is determined by a simple colour test.  A colour change from purple to red indicates that CWD is present.

Red means the sample is CWD-positive

The new ‘MN-QuIC’ test is a lot cheaper than traditional tests and delivers preliminary results in just 24 hours,” says Peter Larsen, PhD, an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine. Until now, scientists and hunters have had to wait on the results of laboratory tests using specialised equipment. The university has so far completed more than 100 lab tests to validate the new test, but will be doing more to confirm its accuracy.

Since chronic wasting disease was first identified in Colorado in the late 1960s it has spread to captive and free-ranging deer in about half the states in the United States, as well as three provinces in Canada. Cases have also been detected in South Korea, Norway, Finland, and Sweden. It is not present in New Zealand and has never been detected here.

CWD would pose a major threat to deer farming in New Zealand should it ever arrive here and MPI Biosecurity takes the risk seriously. Nevertheless it is important for deer farmers and game park operators to ensure that visitors do not bring CWD with them from infected regions overseas.

“Basically, you don’t want anyone bringing hunting or outdoor gear through your front gate if it has been used in those regions, particularly if it has been used while hunting in North America,” says DINZ science and policy manager Emil Murphy.

For more about CWD, see the Deer Fact, Exotic diseases: take the risk seriously

Velvetting now included in the Animal Welfare Regulations: Deer velvetting, as managed by the National Velvetting Standards Body (NVSB), is now governed by regulation. Until now, velvetting has been subject to a Code of Welfare, with the legal status of the NVSB itself somewhat unclear.

"Getting the NVSB included in the regulations has been a long-term objective of both the NVSB and DINZ, so we are quietly pleased to have achieved this. It means the role of the NVSB has been legally clarified and there is now a straight forward legal process for enforcing the NVSB's rules," says DINZ QA manager John Tacon.

Failure to provide effective pain relief is an offence punishable with a fine. Photo: Trevor Walton

Under regulation 58C of the Animal Welfare (Care and Procedures) Regulations 2018, a person must not velvet the antlers of a deer without appropriately placed and effective pain relief authorised by a veterinarian. This person must be a vet with relevant expertise; a vet student under the supervision of such a vet; the owner of the deer or their approved employee, with "valid written authorisation to perform the procedure by the National Velvetting Standards Body; or a veterinarian". That person must have demonstrated they have the knowledge to carry out the appropriate velvetting technique to meet deer health and welfare considerations.

If a person does not comply with the regulations they are liable to a fine of up to $3000; or in the case of a body corporate, to a fine of up to $15,000.

We’re on notice to get wintering right: The government has deferred implementing its much-criticised winter grazing regulations for 12 months – until May 2022 – but the livestock industries can’t use this as an opportunity to relax.

DINZ environmental stewardship manager Lindsay Fung says that if bad practice is seen to be widespread, the government has signalled it will get tough on farmers. Most New Zealanders will demand this if they believe that farmers are failing to care for animals and the environment.

“Never mind that it may just be a perception. Perceptions count. During winter, try to look at your wintering system through a non-farmer’s eyes. How would it look if a photo or video was taken today and posted on social media?”

It’s the end of winter. The deer look happy and in good condition, but the bare soil presents a risk if there is heavy rain. Have a plan for what you will do if the weather turns to custard – how will you minimise run-off and provide a dry area for the deer

He says that while farmers will be striving to get their wintering right on the farm, DINZ and the NZDFA will be talking to officials to try and change unworkable aspects of the government’s proposed winter grazing rules. These include rules covering pugging, re-sowing dates and cropping on slopes.

“With so many eyes watching them, we strongly encourage deer farmers to have a wintering plan. Check it against the checklist ‘Are you set for winter’ developed by farming groups including Deer Industry New Zealand. IWG Farmer Checklist 2021 >>

If you don’t have a Farm Environment Plan, or need to update it to include a wintering plan, consider joining a Deer Industry Environment Group. Contact: phil.mckenzie@deernz.org or Tel 027 499 7809

If you know of a neighbour who is struggling during winter, but you are reluctant to have a chat, ring the Federated Farmers hot-line 0800 FARMING (0800 327 646). They will check the situation out and offer farmer-friendly help if it is needed.

To download our handy Deer Fact sheets on winter grazing management and good environmental practice, click on the links below:

Intensive winter feeding: minimising the environmental risk
Planning for winter: best options for deer and their environment
Protecting waterways from wallow and feed pad run-off
Effective nutrient management on deer farms
Farm Environment Plans: the whys and hows of preparing them
Fence-pacing: costs and solutions

Stags back in their own paddocks by now: On most deer farms, stags will now be removed from the hinds and recuperating in their own paddocks from the rigours of mating. Red hinds that come into oestrus later than 6 May will deliver their fawns in January, when it’s too late for profitable production. Pastures will be past their best by then and there will simply be not enough time for their fawns to grow to an acceptable weight by weaning.

“The desirable bull removal date for Elk/Wapiti should be earlier – 24 April at the latest – because Elk/Wapiti cows have a longer gestation (250 days +/- 6 days) than red hinds (233 days +/- 3 days),” says DINZ producer manager Tony Pearse.

Whatever the date of stag/bull removal, it may well pay farmers this season to scan for foetal age, which is best done between 30 and 80 days of pregnancy. That’s so that dries can be processed for the premium prices being offered by some marketers during the spring chilled venison season. Also, on the many farms that have been hit by drought, the drafting of hinds into early and late fawning mobs allows the limited quality feed on offer to be channelled where and when it’s needed most.

For more information, check a handy Deer Fact sheet:

Best practice management of pregnant hinds
Best practice pregnancy scanning

Attend the NI Deer Expo in person or by Zoom: The North Island Deer Industry Tech Expo and Deer Farmers’ Workshop is this year including an option of attending via Zoom. Attendees will still choose the workshops that they want to attend, whether in person or via Zoom.

The theme is adding value. From digital technologies to added-value timbers, understanding what the market loves about our product, business diversification and measuring efficiencies and more. We hope you will find new technologies, ideas and pearls of wisdom that will help add value to your business, says convenor Pania Flint.

“We also want to add value to our exhibitors and relationships so we are working to maximise interaction between our exhibitors and farmers. The event will be held in one hall at Awapuni Racecourse with joint sessions in the main room for all to join. Exhibitors are invited to attend workshops and the evening meal.”

When: 9.00 am, Wednesday 30 June – 4.00 pm, Thursday 1 July

Where: Awapuni Racecourse, Palmerston North

More info and to register >>

Don’t forget those Yersiniavax boosters: Weaners are likely to be under more stress this year on those farms where reserves of quality feed are low due to drought. This makes it extra important for them to get their Yersiniavax boosters before winter sets in.

No drought feed shortage here

“Yersiniosis is one of the main causes of scouring and death in 4- to 8-month deer, with outbreaks often being triggered by stress. It also sometimes occurs in older deer,” says DINZ producer manager Tony Pearse.

Best practice with pre-rut weaned fawns is to give them their first dose of Yersiniavax about a week or 10 days before weaning – while they are still with their mothers. NAIT tagging and any other treatment can be done at the same time. This minimises stress at weaning, making it a simple separation exercise on the day. With post-rut weaning, the first dose is normally given when hinds are put in mating groups in late February/early March.

In both cases a booster shot is needed to give good levels of protection. Ideally this should have been given four or five weeks after their first, but it is better to do it now than not at all. Pearse suggests this should be given a week or so before bringing weaners in for drenching or sex drafting, as the stress of these activities can trigger disease if the second vaccine hasn’t had enough time to work.