DINZ news in brief 25 October 2018

DINZ news in brief 25 October 2018

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Levy changes for new season: The DINZ venison levy for the 2018-19 season has increased by 1 cent to 18c a kilogram (9 c/kg from farmers and 9 c/kg from processors) to fund more on-farm environmental activity. There is no increase for current DINZ activities which are being funded from the existing levy amount of 17 c/kg.     

The increase will be partially offset by a reduction in the amounts DINZ collects to help fund the TbFree programme and DeerPRO (formerly Johne’s Management Ltd). It’s somewhat complicated, but it boils down to an overall increase in the venison levy of 0.42 c/kg on an average 57 kg carcass and a reduction of 5 c/kg on the velvet levy from 325c/kg to 320c/kg.

The new levy structure is unchanged from that proposed by the DINZ board earlier this year. The board considered feedback from the NZDFA and a handful of individual levy payers on the proposed rates. Some questioned the need for the additional environmental work and levy increase and others suggested that, with venison and velvet prices at an all-time high, this would be a good time to build industry reserves, or a “fighting fund”. 

Given the limited feedback and the lack of a consensus from submitters the board decided to proceed with its proposed rates and arranged for them to be gazetted for the start of the new season, 1 October. 

Farm environmental help available: Deer farmers wanting environmental help will now be able to get it from DINZ. Deer industry environment groups (DIEGs), funded by the P2P programme, are to be set-up around the country to help farmers improve their environmental performance through a mix of mutual support and professional guidance.

DINZ P2P manager Innes Moffat says there will be between five and eight farms in each group, with a paid facilitator and a farmer chair. The initiative is being coordinated by Phil McKenzie, a former environment general manager with Landcorp. See the October/November issue of Deer Industry News for more information.

Interested in setting up a DIEG, or joining one? Contact Phil on phil@changeforgood.co.nz or Tel 0274 997 809.

A QE2 National Trust covenant on a Fiordland deer farm

Firm venison prices predicted: Venison farmgate prices reached record levels in the year ended June 2018, and are forecast by the Ministry for Primary Industries to increase further in the year ending June 2019.

In its September 2018 Situation & Outlook Report (SOPI) the ministry said venison farmgate prices were 14 percent higher in June 2018 than the previous record set in 2009. “Farmgate prices are expected to increase further in 2019 with constrained supplies and strong demand indications, which is also expected to flow into higher average export prices.” It expects total venison export revenue to reach $200 million in the year ended 30 June 2019, a five-year high.

Alliance chief executive David Surveyor has also been widely reported in the media as saying he expects venison prices to remain strong at $11 to $11.75 until the end of December, then easing to $10.40 to $11 a kilogram for the first three months of 2019.

A very sad time for the Wallis family: The DINZ and NZDFA boards and staff extend their deep condolences to Sir Tim and Prue, Lady Wallis, and their families for the loss of their son, Nick, in a helicopter crash near Wanaka airfield on 18 October. Two Department of Conservation (DOC) staff, Paul Hondelink and Scott Theobald, were also killed in the crash. Nick’s brother Matt died in a similar crash in July.

Sir Tim is one of the founders of the modern deer farming industry, a legacy that continues at Minaret Station, where the family runs a major deer farming operation. 

MPI gives industry’s own auditors the tick: The Ministry for Primary Industries has officially approved the industry’s auditors after their first full season auditing farms for compliance with the Regulated Control Scheme (RCS) for velvet harvest. The auditors are deer vets contracted by the National Velvet Standards Body (NVSB), an organisation governed by deer vets and deer farmers.

NVSB chair Ian Scott says the auditors’ histories and practical backgrounds were checked by MPI to ensure they are applying RCS standards consistently across the industry. “We should all be proud that the RCS is working well and ensuring that velvet harvest facilities, storage and transport are meeting market requirements.”

The 2017/18 season was the first for the RCS and farmers had little time in which to bring their sheds up to standard. This was reflected in the results of audits on an initial 300 sheds, with one-third of these failing their first audit visit.

This season another 300 sheds have been randomly picked for audit. Scott says this cost is covered by the $250 annual licence fee paid by NVSB velvetters.

“If the auditor says minor fixes are needed, the farmer can send the auditor photos of the completed work for sign-off. But you can’t ask the auditor to come to your farm and ask them what to do. If major improvements are needed, the auditor will need to come back to the farm to see they have been completed. There is a $350 fee for this,” he says.

If a farmer does not meet the RCS standards, the auditor gives them a timeframe to bring their facilities up to speed.

“The role of the auditors is educational, not enforcement. But in the end the RCS is a legally enforceable standard designed to ensure NZ velvet has access to overseas markets, so it has to be taken seriously,” Scott says.

The auditors provide the NVSB with a list of sheds that have passed their audits. If a farmer failed to upgrade their facilities to meet the RCS standards, the NVSB would send their name to MPI and the farm would be unable to legally sell their velvet. This has not happened yet and the NVSB would prefer that it didn’t.

A sparkling clean deer shed

How serious is FE in deer herds? There has been little research undertaken into facial eczema in deer for many years. With the FE risk zone moving south as a result of climate change, more research into its impact on deer welfare and productivity may be warranted.

DINZ science and policy manager Catharine Sayer would welcome any observations or suggestions for research that farmers and their vets might have. Topics she's identified so far are understanding the impact of FE on productivity and establishing a subclinical indicator of FE in deer.  

“The sheep, beef and dairy industries are taking FE and the potential spread of the risk zone quite seriously. Maybe we should too.”

Contact Catharine on Tel 04 471 6116 or catharine.sayer@deernz.org

Less stress makes for a happier farm:  The latest Deer Fact, enclosed with the October/November issue of Deer Industry News, focusses on how to minimise stress in hinds and young stock. Deer that are free of chronic stress are more settled, easier to handle and more productive. Achieving this is the mark of a good deer manager.

Corn taps free nitrogen: While legumes can fix atmospheric nitrogen, most other plants cannot. But scientists at UC Davis in the United States have found a species of giant corn cultivated in a mountainous part of southern Mexico, that extracts N from the air.

The corn, which grows in N-poor soils with little added fertiliser, has aerial roots that encircle the stem and drip with a clear, glistening mucus that’s loaded with bacteria. These microbes convert atmospheric N into a form that the plant can use.

Scientists have been trying unsuccessfully for years to develop nitrogen-fixing cereal crops using genetic modification (GM). If this could be achieved by cross breeding this corn variety with commonly grown crop or pasture plants, this would likely be more acceptable to consumers.

If this could be achieved, it would save huge amounts of money and energy needed to manufacture and apply artificial N to crops and pastures. Also it may reduce the risk of excess nutrients getting into waterways. That’s something on the wish list of all New Zealand farmers and growers, the deer sector included.

Source: Ed Yong, The Atlantic