Deer Farm Systems Description

Deer Farm Systems Description

Our own system

Dairy does it, so why can’t we? No reason as it turns out. MRB’s Jamie Gordon showed how deer farming systems are developing into well-defined types, the same way the dairy industry has its own five-level farm systems model.

He’s been working on the P2P Deer Farm System Project, which is designed to help farmers take a step back and analyse where their operation fits in to the big picture. Gordon was at pains to point out that this is a conceptual model, not a farm management tool like Farmax.

It’s nonetheless an essential step if you’re to start down that productivity road, from:

•      where am I now?


•      where do I want to be?

followed by

•      how shall I get there?

The Deer Farm System Project will help you better understand that first step – where am I now?

The concept extends the thinking behind the P2P growth curve models (posters and online) for finishing and replacements that are now gaining traction amongst finishers and those breeding replacements.

It initially covers venison finishing systems – breeding is to follow but is of course closely linked. It creates a simple matrix, with a main driver of productivity on each axis: intensity of breeding (frame size and breed type) and intensity of feeding and finishing (Figure 1). For simplicity and to better match actual outcomes, the two more intensive breeding systems (large-framed red hinds with high BV red stags, and moderate-framed red hinds with a terminal sire) are treated as equivalent.

Figure 1: Systems overview

This working model picks apart the intensity and costs for each of the three feeding/finishing systems: slow (1), average (2) and fast (3). Gordon said the three systems range from grass only on a 10-year pasture replacement cycle to a 5-year cycle involving fodder beet (1 year), clover/herbs (2 years) and a short rotation ryegrass (2 years).

As expected, the fast finishing system (3) involves higher inputs and higher feed costs than the other systems (Figure 2) but generates significantly more tucker.

Figure 2: Feed inputs and costs for the three finishing systems.

While costs are higher for finishing system (3), Gordon said the productivity is also much higher. For example, the relative margin per hectare (about $2,300) is about double that for finishing system (1) (about $1,100), irrespective of breed type or frame size.

In terms of carcass weight per hectare, finishing system (3) – high BV reds or terminal sires over red hinds – was producing more than quadruple the amount of carcass weight as the slow finishing system (1) using moderate-framed reds.

The fast finishing system (3) also achieved higher growth rates per day and got animals to slaughter weights in about two-thirds of the time achieved in the slow finishing system (1).

So far, so good and so theoretical. Does this spreadsheet model apply in the real world? Gordon was pleased to report that indeed it does.

He “road tested” eight systems on seven farms (one farm ran two systems) to test the model. Three farms were in Hawke’s Bay and five were spread throughout Canterbury. By and large the actual farm data fitted within the range of the Deer Farm System model very well in terms of feed supplied (see Figure 3) and feed costs per kg of dry matter. Actual margins per hectare also mirrored the model very well.

Figure 3: Amount of feed supplied per hectare on road-tested farms (blue bars) compared with feed supplied in Deer Farm System model (red bars).

Gordon said farm input costs for feed were a bit lower than the model would suggest on a couple of the more productive farms. “This was because they did much of the crop work themselves and they also had higher than average crop yields,” he explained.

Deer Industry New Zealand is currently working on a farmer-friendly version of the Deer Farm System model so that it can be easily applied at farm level as a good start point for farm business planning and spotting opportunities for increasing productivity.

A copy of Jamie Gordon’s presentation including detailed graphs can be viewed here