Major deer shed upgrade underway

Major deer shed upgrade underway

Thursday, October 26, 2017
Most deer farmers are upgrading their deer sheds so that velvet is harvested, handled, stored and transported in a clean environment.
 
John Tacon, quality assurance manager for Deer Industry NZ (DINZ), says the regulatory bottom line is that all sheds must have a “clean zone” – a designated area where velvet antler is removed, handled and frozen. In this zone, all contact surfaces must be washable and clean prior to velvet removal and handling. 
 
“As soon as practicable after harvesting, but within 2 hours, velvet also needs to be placed in a velvet-only freezer capable of freezing to at least minus 15 deg C.” 
 
At some time in the future he expects standards could well be “ramped up, but it’s a good starting point”.
 
“For some farmers major upgrades have been needed. Others have had to only make minor refinements. And while hygiene is the driver, the new and upgraded facilities we are seeing are often much better for the deer and those who work with them,” he says.
 
“We are really impressed with the quality of the facilities that many farmers are building. It shows the great pride they have in their industry and the products they produce.”
 
Tacon says under a new regulatory control scheme (RCS), about a third of all velvetting facilities will be audited each year by NVSB auditors who are now MPI-approved. This is separate to the annual visits by supervising veterinarians who check that farmer velvetters are removing velvet in accordance with the NVSB standards. 
 
Before velvet leaves the farm, farmers now must sign a Velvet Status Declaration – a legal document which confirms that the velvet has been removed in compliance with the RCS.  
 
“The velvetting season is now underway and farmers have had only a few months to get their sheds up to spec,” Tacon says.
 
“The Ministry for Primary Industries is aware of this and is allowing some lenience. If you have taken clear steps to upgrade your facilities, you may sign your VSDs. You may sign if your shed hasn’t been audited, but you believe it meets the standard. Also, you may sign if you’ve been audited and there are some minor issues you need to attend to.  
 
“The only farmers who should not sign are those with sheds that don’t meet the RCS standard and where they haven’t made any attempt to upgrade. Eventually velvet from such sheds will not be legally saleable. When these sheds are identified they will be included on a list of non-complying farms that will be circulated to velvet buyers.”  
 
DINZ chair Ian Walker, who is an NVSB and RCS auditor, says he has signed off 50 per cent of the sheds he has audited. Of the remainder, about half need only minor changes. 
 
“One thing that many farmers forget to include in their records is an A4 plan of the facilities, with the clean zone areas highlighted. Most of the audit is based on broad risk assessments, but there are some specific rules that you have to abide by – like the clean area plan and evidence that your freezer meets the required temperature”.
 
Paddy Boyd, a farmer member of the National Velvetting Standards Body (NVSB), says the shed upgrades have been a long time coming.
 
“In the last 40 years a lot has changed in terms of technology and public attitudes, but many of us have been using the same facilities throughout. We had already started encouraging farmers to upgrade before Chinese regulators decided to bring the supply and manufacture of traditional Chinese medicines into the modern era,” Boyd says. 
 
“In working with the Ministry for Primary Industries on the new regulatory control scheme, we have been careful not to set standards that farmers couldn’t deliver. We had to ensure we had a scheme that was credible in the market, but was completely doable for farmers. 
 
A clean zone in a refurbished deer shed. The walls and floor are washable and clean.