Friday, February 23, 2024

Legend on the podium as ‘Schroeds’ honoured

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For the first time, deer industry award goes to a stock and station agent.
For the first time, deer industry award goes to a stock and station agent
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This article is part of Famers Weekly’s annual Land Champions series. Read the full series here.

A “true doer” for the deer industry, Ron Schroeder will clock up his golden anniversary next year in the industry he stumbled upon as a sheep and beef livestock agent in Marlborough.

In recognition of his service to the industry, Schroeds, as he is widely known among his deer industry colleagues, was awarded the New Zealand Deer Industry 2022 award, presented every year by the NZ Deer Farmers Association (NZDFA).

Who could be worthier than Schroeds, who has contributed at the grassroots of the industry for almost 50 years, asked prominent Canterbury deer farmers and award nominators Bob Kingscote and Colin Guild.

Their sentiment was echoed by supporting testimonials from industry stalwarts and leaders, who praised Schroeder’s connection with clients based on his extensive industry knowledge and people skills.

Schroeder has been a matchmaker of buyers and sellers, procuring and transacting thousands of deer deals over his long career, his work taking him the length and breadth of the country as well as overseas.

He has been a staunch supporter of the NZDFA and Deer Industry NZ (DINZ) events with his ability to gauge the pulse of the industry over the years invaluable to organisations as well as stock agent colleagues and countless individual deer farmers.

Messages of support for his nomination described Schroeder as a dedicated stalwart who has gone well beyond the call of duty in supporting and servicing the industry.

“Schroeder has been and remains after 49 years a critical and dedicated agent and is by any standards an outstanding, albeit a quiet, and modest achiever for the deer industry.

“A true doer who is respected and admired and has a legion of business friends and personal association across the industry in an exceptional career,” Kingscote said.

Peel Forest deer farmer Graham Carr acknowledged Schroeder’s contribution to the industry as having been instrumental in acquiring and importing all the overseas genetics from the UK, Germany, Hungary and Yugoslavia.

“The industry has without a doubt benefitted hugely by his support,” Carr said.

Retired DINZ producer manager Tony Pearse praised Schroeder as a master of diplomacy and an accomplished, warm-hearted NZ deer ambassador and standout performer in one of the industry’s most important roles. 

Based out of North Canterbury from his hometown of Cheviot, Schroeder is the first stock and station agent recipient of the award. 

A self-confessed “old school operator”, the PGG Wrightson agent does not deny his love for deer.

He farms them, buys and sells them, hunts them, eats them and, some believe, dreams about them.

It all began in 1974, when he started with the NZ Farmers Co-Op as a sheep and beef stock agent in Marlborough.

Through various contacts he developed an interest in deer and tried to convince some of his sheep and beef clients that deer would be a good option.

“But to no avail,” Schroeder said.

Then in 1978, out of the blue, a client saw the light.

“He just came to me and said ‘I’m going to go into deer, where do I start?’ – so I drove him from Marlborough to Southland to look at various set-ups.

“We came home, put up fences and a basic set of yards, brought some hinds and that was the start of my hands-on deer, but it didn’t really take off in Marlborough.”

Then that client got associated with a helicopter pilot and had a sale of feral animals.

“People came from all over NZ and from that I got a lot of contacts and I started chasing deer clients all over the country.”

Thanks in part to Ron Schroeder, velvet – a byproduct in the pioneering days of the New Zealand deer industry – is now a lucrative mainstream industry for growers and breeders. 

Schroeder suggested to NZ Farmers it would be worth going full-time on deer and so in 1979 he moved to Christchurch and in 1983, when NZ Farmers merged with Wrightsons, he left and went to Pyne Gould Guinness.

“They didn’t have a deer division as such so I got that going and consequently set up a model deer farm on the outskirts of Christchurch with an auction facility, the first deer facility of its kind in the top of the South Island. The only other one in NZ was in Southland.” Schroeder said.

Driven by excitement for the industry, his passion blossomed.

“I could see a real future in the animal for venison, and latterly velvet. The industry growth was based on genetic development and I had the fortune in the late ’80s to get overseas exploring in England and Scotland, Europe and Canada, to bring in some of those genetics.”

Over the course of five years Schroeder had 21 trips overseas importing bloodlines.

“Now with the ban on importing livestock we can only work with the genetics we have but that is not all bad because when you look at velvet genetics worldwide, we have the best in the world.   

“Deer are an extremely intelligent animal and I really enjoy working with them.”

Schroeder gets his greatest satisfaction these days looking after the next generation of deer farmers.

The biggest legacy to his career is the mentoring and encouragement of young deer farmers and agents.

“I love that, working with the offspring of initial clients, they are like a breath of fresh air and extremely passionate, but still there is a lack of young blood coming through.”

Schroeder has been through a lot of challenges in the industry, from the lows of $4/kg for venison, the impact of land use change and the covid pandemic, but he is confident about the industry’s future.

“I am very bullish about the industry. In the pioneering days it was set up on venison, and velvet was a byproduct, now it’s mainstream for growers and breeders and doing very well and there are lot of good people in the industry making good things happen.

“I feel very honoured to be recognised in this unique industry as I do like to fly under the radar,” Schroeds said.