Whole barley is usually fed throughout the year but disappointing yields from the 8ha harvest made farm manager Phil Dawson reassess and carefully budget feeding of grain during 2012.
As a result the three and four-year-old velvet and trophy stags got rations of Reliance Deer Elite nuts rather than barley in the lead-up to sale in January this year. The 26 stags were fed grain from August 8 and transitioned to nuts by September 1. From then until sale day on January 11 they were fed just under 1kg of nuts a day.
By late in November they averaged 195kg, well on target for sale day weight range of 200 to 240kg.
Based purely on observation rather than comparative data, Phil says the nuts produced pleasing results, a good example being a stag that produced an impressive head this year after growing plain hard antler last year.
“The tops have developed and it looks like he’s got potential and it’s surprised me. It could be that the feeding of nuts is helping express the genetics.”
Barley is fed at various times during the year. It’s fed pre- and post-weaning which helps settle the weaners.
“Grain is a great management tool. You can move a mob quickly behind the grain wagon, and it helps quieten weaners.”
Weaners are fed barley for three to four weeks after weaning, then put on to autumn-saved grass for the winter. They get barley again in spring.
Rising two-year-old stags are supplemented with barley early in spring when they begin tiring of silage and rape.
“Spring is slow to come here so I use grain and it really does help.”
The grain rations continue once they move on to a lucerne rotation.
The deer love barley, more so than nuts, but its main disadvantage is the amount of waste.
“It’s hard to know what amount we’re feeding out and what is actually being consumed. As we don’t crush the barley a fair percentage passes straight through them as well, so utilisation probably is fairly poor whereas utilisation is very high with the nuts and they contain everything that should be needed for good velvet growth.”
Nuts probably will be used again next year for the velvet and trophy stags.
“You know they’re getting what they need … for us feeding only 30 animals for three months it’s (financially) achievable but I don’t think we could justify it for large numbers.”
Remarkables Park deer tread some of the most expensive and picturesque grazing land in the country. The 200ha farm is back-dropped by the Remarkable mountain range and Coronet Peak to the west, and neighbours the Queenstown airport runway and Remarkables Park Frankton shopping centre.
The farm was bought by the Porter Group Ltd, which owns several commercial property and retail developments in the Queenstown area. The Porter family has a long deer farming association. Brothers Alastair, John and Neville started deer farming at South Kaipara Head in 1976, and began importing European deer in 1985. Alastair was an early member of the NZ Deer Farmers’ Council and played a key role in the formation of the Game Industry Board. He led programmes such as the development of Cervena, has strongly supported the use of AI technology, and was a foundation member of the Deer Improvement Board.
The Porter Group bought Remarkables Park farm in 1988 and sourced most of the founding deer stock from Rakaia herds, including Erewhon. They sell venison sires at two years old and trophy and velvet sires are selected and sold at three and four years old.
These mixed-age stags make a beeline for the distinctive yellow feeding wagon when it comes through the gate.