Capturing opportunities on Southland deer farms

One of the sire wapiti bulls at Connemara.
BRITTANY PICKETT/FAIRFAX NZ

One of the sire wapiti bulls at Connemara.

Once a cynic, Murray Hagen now sees being part of a Southland advance party as a chance to lift the performance of the deer industry.

The Manapouri farmer and his wife Beverly own Connemara, and run it with stock manager Jim Cameron. The 300 hectare deer farm has about 500 commercial hinds and 350 stud hinds.

While Hagen admitted he was skeptical at first about the Southland Elk and Wapiti Advance Party incentive, he eventually saw the good it could have on deer performance. Even lifting the overall performance nationally by five per cent would make a big difference, he said.

A sire wapiti bull at Connemara.
BRITTANY PICKETT/FAIRFAX NZ

A sire wapiti bull at Connemara.

"We've lifted things ourselves. I've always had goals, and I think if you are farming and you want to strive ahead you've got to have goals."

READ MORE: Deer industry leaders paint rosy portrait as sector makes gradual comeback

Hagen's overall goal is to run an efficient farming system. More specifically, he wants to make a good profit, have a good living, and be able to achieve a better performance out of his deer.

Connemara won an award at the Deer Farmers' Environmental Awards in 2015 for using farming technology to improve his farming, progress the business and manage resources.

Hagen said he was always trying to put different products into his farming system to improve performance and he has seen results. 

A fallacy he had proved wrong himself was that wapiti farmers had to accept 10 to 15 per cent less in calving rates compared with red deer, he said.

A calving rate of 98 per cent was achievable, and some of his mobs had achieved more than 100 per cent, he said.

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"Not all wapiti are created equal and this is when a good red can be better than an average wapiti."

If wapiti farmers nationally were able to lift their calving rates to 80 to 90 per cent it would be "amazing" for the industry, he said.

Hagen is also keen to see better genetics in the wapiti breed. He, along with other advance party members Dave Lawrence, Geoff Pullar and Landcorp use Deer Select, New Zealand's national deer recording database. 

The database allows breeders to push the wapiti breed and see advances in genetics, he said.

"I want to get across to breeders how they can improve their genetics. It's one of the easiest things to get the best gain."

The advance party is holding its annual regional workshop at Connemara  on July 12. The day will start with lunch followed by speakers and a farm tour.

One of the obligations for advance parties is to hold a workshop each year to highlight some of the projects that the members have done on their own farms and the benefits that they have gained, and to share them with other deer farmers in the region.

At the workshop Deer Industry New Zealand Deer Select manager Sharon McIntyre will speak about deer genetics. Members of the advance party will speak on the benefits of leptospirosis control, maximising venison and spiker velvet returns, improving conception rates, the nutrition of weaners on future velvet production, reducing mortality rates in young calves, and how changes in management have improved their farming. 

For Hagen, getting involved in doing trials is worth it if he can help improve the industry he is passionate about.

"I'm not afraid to get out and do these things if it's good for the industry," Hagen said.

 - Stuff

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