Te Tipua deer farmer Bruno Ross is about to embark on the trip of a lifetime.
He will visit velvet processing factories and deer farms in China in May as part of a prize he won for supplying his velvet to Tasman Velvet Processors.
Bruno was thrilled to win the competition.
"It's ideal," he said.
Bruno farms 1000 red hinds and a similar number of fawns on a 350-hectare property he leases off his parents Lindsay and Liz Ross, near Gore.
He also runs 100 2-year-old replacement stags and 50 mixed- age velveting stags.
The Rosses used to run a flock of up to 3200 ewes but too many years of "pushing a handpiece" and frustrations over low lamb prices encouraged the move to all deer.
Six months ago he finished deer fencing the property and about half the creeks have been fenced off so far.
Although he's no longer doing a lamb beat, Bruno reckons he's just as busy with the deer but at different times of the year.
"We're pretty hectic at Christmas.
"We're velveting 2-year-olds, got silage and baleage to do and we're getting weaners away," Bruno said.
Bruno, 29, mates half his hinds to a terminal sire stag while the other half are single sire mated to a red stag for velvet production.
Last season he produced about 500kg of velvet with the mixed- age stags cutting 5.5 to 6kg of velvet.
After averaging $100 per kilogram last season, Bruno has high hopes for the new velveting season, which is just around the corner.
Velvet prices were looking "firm to better" than last year because of strong demand from China, according to Peter Hishon, of Tasman Velvet Processors.
"China is a growing market - it's getting bigger and bigger," he said.
Bruno, who sells most of his velvet to Tasman Velvet Processors, said he would start cutting his velvet in early October which would allow him to also take another cut of regrowth.
"The best regrowth I've had is 6kg - and it's a higher value product," Bruno said.
During the past five to 10 years there had been a trend to breeding large velvet heads, with extra tynes, for the trophy market, but there was now a swing back to breeding more traditional heads.
Although Bruno would like to increase his velveting herd to about 500 head, his main focus was producing good quality animals for the venison market.
He aimed to kill about 1000 deer a year at 54kg carcass weight.
Bruno said he was looking forward to his trip to China, where a lot of deer were farmed indoors.
"Somehow I don't think we will be able to apply that practice here. The greenies wouldn't let us away with it," Bruno said.
- The Southland Times
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