DINZ news in brief 30 May 2019

DINZ news in brief 30 May 2019

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Geoff Asher honoured: The Deer Industry Award – the industry’s highest honour – has gone to Dr Geoff Asher, AgResearch’s leading deer production scientist. The announcement of the award was very warmly received at the conference awards dinner in Wellington. In the award citation, Jason Archer of AbacusBio described Asher as a true legend who deservedly ranks highly alongside many of the deer industry pioneers and stalwarts in terms of his contribution to deer farming.

Asher is known for his passion for deer, his prodigious science output and for providing practical solutions to deer farming problems and opportunities, said Archer. He does this work with a high level of integrity accompanied by a great sense of humour. Because of his expertise, Asher’s advice is sought-after by commercial farmers, other scientists and the deer industry generally – advice that is willingly provided.

Geoff has worked as a deer scientist for AgResearch and its predecessor organisations all his career, starting at Ruakura in 1980 and transferring to Invermay in 1992. His particular interests are deer reproduction, seasonality and physiology. Geoff was nominated by former colleague Dr Ken Drew. His nomination was supported by his colleagues at DINZ and the wider science community.

Photo: Geoff Asher at a farmer field day, photo Phil Stewart

It’s all about the environment: Mark Adams, chair of the Beef + Lamb (B+L) Environmental Reference Group, told the conference that in his view, if you want to continue farming in any way shape or form then you will need to do a Farm Environmental Plan (FEP) and actively join your local Community Catchment Group (CCG).

“Why? Because right now it’s all about the environment.” His plea to the government is to work with farmers. “Respect us, and don’t run right over the top. Allow us access to the best science, the sharpest minds and realistic timeframes. Then together … we will help transition this amazing country into what l believe is a brave and exciting future.”

He said that because issues related to the environment are complex and interrelated, farmers need to focus on, “What it is that l can control?” He said FEPs help individual farmers break down the issues to the point where they can recognise and clearly define their impact on the land, the water, and the air. The real strength of a CCG is “when urban folk are well represented, have a voice, and feel heard. CCG’s can facilitate dialogue, encourage informed conversation, and build a bridge.”

Photo: Mark Adams, photo courtesy Waterford Press

Honours for grass-roots farmer and industry scribe: The Matuschka Award is an annual award that goes to the unsung heroes of the deer farming community – the farmers whose contributions to local activities and functions reflect the core spirit of deer farming. This year’s winners – announced at the Deer Industry Conference -- were Graham and Vicki Patterson of South Canterbury North Otago NZDFA. The award will be presented to them at a special mid-winter function of their branch.

Another contributor to the NZDFA who was honoured at the conference was long-time Deer Industry News editor, Phil Stewart. He was awarded honorary life membership of the NZDFA for his coverage of DFA activities and enthusiastic support of the industry over many years. Stewart joins a small group who have been so honoured.

Detailed coverage of these awards and the results of the annual MSD photo awards will appear in NZDFA Stagline due out within a fortnight and the June issue of Deer Industry News later in the month.

Photo: Phil Stewart announcing the MSD photo awards at the conference

Velvet RCS tracking well: The MPI Regulatory Control Scheme (RCS) for velvet is a real feather in the cap for the velvet industry, as it provides market access to China. DINZ Asia manager Rhys Griffiths says no other country is legally allowed to export to China because they cannot demonstrate that their velvet has been harvested in a clean environment and been kept frozen on its path to market.

DINZ QA manager John Tacon told the conference that a further 300 deer sheds will be audited by the National Velvet Standards Body in the coming season. Last season, more than half the sheds audited were approved by the auditor on the day … a much better result than the previous season. Most of the remainder had to complete minor improvements. Several had failed to draw up a simple plan of the shed showing the clean areas – something that was easily fixed.

Interestingly, about 10 per cent of farmers opted out. This means that if they continue to velvet in the shed, their velvet will not be able to be legally sold and exported. Starting in 2020, Ministry for Primary Industries will begin checking velvet premises (on-farm, collection depots and buyers) at random. Anyone found to be deliberately flouting the provisions of RCS could then be liable to prosecution.

Glenn Tyrrell bows out: Venison marketer Glenn Tyrrell is stepping down from the DINZ board after serving several years as deputy chair. He is being replaced on the board at the end of June by Firstlight Foods chief executive Gerard Hickey.

DINZ chair Ian Walker paid tribute to Tyrrell who he said had been a huge help in his role as vice chair to Walker when he joined the board.

“Glenn has a deep knowledge of venison markets and has made an incredible input. His strong understanding of the industry and customers have made a huge contribution to the board.”

Photo: Glenn Tyrrell (right), wearing out shoe leather in the marketplace

Pilot velvet trial shows cognitive benefits for rats: Middle-aged laboratory rats fed velvet in a small trial at Otago University, moved more, explored more and found their way around a water maze quicker than controls. The research conducted by associate professor Dr Ping Lu, a gerontologist and brain metabolism researcher, was to explore the potential role of velvet in promoting healthy brain ageing.

A key finding was that the velvet increased cerebral perfusion (blood flow). Poor perfusion leads to ischemia, one of the elements of cardiovascular disease.

Discussing the findings at the conference, both Dr Lu and DINZ science and policy manager Catharine Sayer emphasised the high velvet dose rates, small scale and short dosing period of the trial. Dr Lu also said she would expect a more significant result in aged rats, although middle age is typically the life stage at which people wish to future-proof their brain health. The positive results from the pilot indicate that further research may be fruitful for companies interested in expanding functionality claims made for their velvet products. 

Deer milking on Country Calendar: Last year there was widespread media coverage of the deer milking enterprise established in Southland by the McIntyre family and Pamu.

This is to be followed by a TVNZ Country Calendar episode featuring deer milking by Mt Somers, mid-Canterbury, deer farmers Mark Faulks and Cindy Mackenzie. They and equity partner Graham Carr have now completed their fourth season of deer milking. Along with milking manager Di Herron and her partner Simon Wakefield, the team last season milked 120 Red hinds once a day in a 10-aside herringbone shed.

More? See Country-Wide, June 2019; Country Calendar Sunday 7 July 2019.

Overseer changes to Overseer FM on 1 July: The farm environment programme Overseer is rolling out a major upgrade on 1 July. The new system, known as Overseer FM, is designed to be operated by the farm owner or manager, rather than a consultant or a fertiliser rep.

It is important that any data from existing Overseer files is loaded into Overseer FM by 1 July. They will not be transferred to the new system automatically. This process should be managed by the consultant who completed a farm’s Overseer. It costs nothing to register or to store past data. A $200 annual subscription will become payable only when farmers want to run the model. Farmers can then choose who they want to share their data with.