Productivity ideas come thick and fast at workshop

Productivity ideas come thick and fast at workshop

Friday, June 22, 2018

The 41 deer farmers at the Advance Party National Workshop held in Methven last week have returned home well-armed with ideas for changes they can make to improve profitability on their own farms.

In an intensive two-day professional development exercise, Advance Party members from throughout New Zealand analysed the key profitability drivers in the farm systems that interested them, such as extensive breeding or velvet production.

Using case study farms based on real data they then brainstormed productivity topics of most significance before teasing out strategies for suggested changes on the farm in question, as well as their own properties.

Advance Parties operate as part of the Passion2Profit programme, a Primary Growth Partnership between the Ministry for Primary Industries and Deer Industry New Zealand (DINZ). They are groups of farmers who are committed to sharing the details of their deer farming operations with other Party members and to making management changes to improve the performance of their deer operations.

DINZ Passion2Profit manager Innes Moffat says the participants made good use of the considerable deer farming experience within the workshop groups. In addition, they were encouraged to seek out further information to support their decisions.

“Farmers always learn well alongside other farmers and at this year’s workshop we encouraged them to work in pairs to think about issues they face at home and then to base their planning on the wealth of knowledge and expertise the industry is building,” Moffat says.

“We had assembled some of the country’s top deer industry specialists at a series of information booths at the venue -- scientists, veterinarians and farm management advisers – with expertise in everything from deer health to velvet genetics. Participants made good use of their experience and advice.”

He says many of the farmers commented on the value of the information available on the DINZ website, – that is free to all farmers. This includes tools like the Deer Health Review, the Deer Select sire index, the Feed Intake Calculator and Farm Environment Plans.

“These are being used by farmers regularly to help with farm management decisions. It was great to see farmers at the workshop sharing with their groups what they had just found online,” Moffat adds.   

In between the workshop sessions, participants gathered for presentations by individual Advance Parties on progress they’d made.

Moffat says the nine case studies showed the scope for change and depth of learning that’s occurring within each group. There are now 26 Advance Parties, representing about 15 percent of New Zealand’s deer farms.

The trophy for best presentation this year was awarded to the central North Island’s Ruapehu Advance Party. Presenting by way of a live phone conversation between Ruapehu chair Mike Rogers and facilitator BJ Bowsher, plus slides for detail, the group illustrated the importance of getting the right quality of feed in front of deer at the right times through the changes made on two members’ farms.

BJ Bowsher reported that one farmer increased his breeding hind numbers, concentrating on feed quality for his replacements, getting his in-fawn rates for R2 hinds up by 9 percent and weaning weights for stag fawns up by 10 kg. “The per-hectare gross farm income for his deer enterprise increased by 45 percent over the two years.”

He said a second farmer in the group showed the value of pasture renewal when analysis revealed the grass he was growing was very low in metabolisable energy and crude protein.

“New pasture was much better on both counts. While waiting for this to be ready to graze, a focus on winter crops and summer pasture quality has helped fuel a 6 kg/head increase in carcass weight and got finishers to slaughter four weeks earlier.”

Moffat says the workshop yielded lots of success stories.

“Every participant got up at the end and shared at least one change they would make on their own farms as a result of what they’d learnt at the workshop,” he says. “That’s an excellent result.

“Another benefit from the National Workshop comes from exposing the facilitators of the Advance Parties to more information about deer farming.  Not all of our facilitators claim deer farming expertise – their role is to facilitate not to advise -- but by listening to the farmers’ discussions they picked up lots of tips. They can use these to prompt members of their Advance Party when they are debating how a member might deal with a management challenge on their farm.”

All the presentations and the farm case studies are now online at

Janet Gregory of NZ Landcare Trust (right) was one of the experts on hand, providing environmental management advice to the workshop groups. Photo: Phil Stewart

Facilitator Urthe Engel (right) capturing group ideas on feeding and nutrition. Photo: Phil Stewart