Convert to sustainability
A farmer with nearly 9000 deer who once never put much thought into improving the environment on his farm, has become a fully converted believer.
Graham Carr estimates he has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars during the past four years fencing off waterways and putting in settling ponds, so the water coming off his farm at Peel Forest Estate in South Canterbury is crystal clear.
Carr has built up one of the largest deer herds in the country, since emigrating to New Zealand 25 years ago from Britain, where he came from a joinery background.
He was inspired by deer pioneers such as Mark Acland and Tim Wallis, who were among farmers attending a field day yesterday celebrating his winning of a section award at the Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Awards, and a deer industry award for commitment to sustainability.
Carr said Wallis fired his passion for deer farming, but his enthusiasm for looking after the farm environment came later.
"I am a bit like a reformed smoker. I didn't like the fact that my farm wasn't tidy and didn't make an effort, and [I] did one waterway and that fired me up.
"Since then, I have been a great advocate and have gone from an embarrassment to a source of pride."
Reducing deer access to streams and merging two creeks into one waterway has increased his farm land, ensured health problems are not passed downstream and made his property more valuable.
Deer wallow in creeks with mud pits encroaching on paddocks.
Settling ponds were put in to reduce sediment in the water and some of the soil was used to fill in creeks, with many trees put in around the farm.
Carr bought the farm in 1987, reduced to 600 hectares from more than 4000ha in its heyday.
His land base is now 1050ha at the estate and he is close to buying about 1200ha on a neighbouring hill block and leases another 280ha.
"I just gradually accumulated land and I was fortunate I had a bit of funding coming into the country and I was able to develop it."
Today, the farm produces nine tonnes of velvet a year, supplies about 2000 animals for venison and sells through auction or privately a range of breeding sires and trophy stags.
Except for the commercial weaners, the deer are DNA and pedigree recorded.
Carr said he was pleased to have been part of improving deer genetics in New Zealand.
He brought in genetics from Yugoslavia and Furzeland red-deer bloodlines from England, to raise the quality of hunting herds, and he breeds and supplies trophy sires to about 100 breeders.
More recently, he bought the Windermere stud near Hamilton, which he describes as the best red-deer velvet stud in the world.
After concentrating on dual-purpose and trophy animals, Carr and manager Steve Blanchard have shifted to venison genetics, and produced terminal sires called B11's for fast-growing progeny and maternal animals called forresters.
Another of Carr's projects has been assisting the industry in overcoming Johne's disease, after it struck the estate in 2000.
At the field day, a new deer shed was unveiled, replacing a shed burnt by fire this year. The building is fitted with technology linked to electronic tags and is big enough to cut velvet from 2500 stags.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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