Deer farming is a relatively new agricultural enterprise. Basic information about breeding, feeding and management has been collected through research projects within the EC and in New Zealand.
Deer are highly seasonal animals, always calving in early summer. Deer farm management follows the same seasonality. Up until now, animals have been finished for slaughter in July-December, at 1418 month of age. It means that the market is only supplied with fresh venison for a very short period of time. It is assumed that if deer farming is to develop further and reach significant production levels, strategies for the production and supply of fresh venison on a year round basis needs to be developed. The present project aims at developing such systems, focusing on young animals for slaughter.
For deer farming to develop and reach significant production levels strategies for the production and supply of fresh venison on a year round basis needs to be developed. These strategies include different housing, weaning and feeding systems. Red and fallow dear were weaned and housed under different lighting regimes and housing systems and fed different rations to obtain either different slaughter weights or the same slaughter weight, but at different ages. Red deer calves were weaned, housed and exposed to different strategies of housing, grazing or a combination of housing and grazing for 3 week periods and red and fallow deer calves wee weaned and housed at different pen areas per calf. Red and fallow deer calves were weaned, housed and fed different rations over winter to obtain different growth rates. Preliminary results indicate different responses to the induced treatments but it is too early to draw any conclusions, as data collection and analysis are not complete.
Different housing and feeding systems will be investigated, and the produced carcases will undergo detailed analysis, including taste panel tests. This topic will be investigated in Action 1 in the project.
The need to house deer calves over winter in most of Europe, calls for special attention in the field of welfare under such conditions. Different weaning and housing systems, including different combinations of weaning-housing-grazing, indoor stocking rates and group sizes, will be investigated. Behavioural as well as physiological parameters will be measured. This topic will be investigated in Action 2 in the project.
The female deer has a very long reproductive life of about 15 years. It is thus very important for the biological and economical output of the deer production system, that she is raised under conditions that will allow her to express her full production potential as a breeding female. The effect of different growth patterns from weaning until puberty at 16 month upon later performance, namely weaning percentage and calf weaning weight, will be investigated in Action 3 in the project.
HR1 3PG Hereford
EH25 9RF Roslin