Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Velvet makes sense

Velveting takes time and patience, but makes good sense financially for Malcolm and Caroline Rau on their Koranga Valley hill-country farm.  The velvet herd produced one tonne of velvet last year, for an average price of about $100/kg over all grades, up 20% from the previous year.  With a senior shepherd capable of managing most of the sheep and cattle work, Malcolm can devote more time to the deer unit and look to increase velvet stag numbers.

Although velvet and venison have provided reliable returns during the past five years, his plan to drop hind numbers slightly to increase the velvet herd is financially driven.

Sire stags are selected from the velvet herd, on meat and velvet production, which can be a difficult balance.

“The ultimate velvet stag is a little wee stag with a huge amount of velvet. With meat production it’s the opposite.”

Ducks at home on the lawn outside the Rau family home.

Spikers are identified and split into three mobs in November, based on antler size.

As two-year-olds they need to cut at least 1.8kg of velvet to be selected as replacements.

To keep new blood coming in, Malcolm also buys in some replacement velvet stags from his father Laurence, who now farms at Matawai.

The busy velveting period begins mid-October with mixed-age velvet stags, followed by two-year-olds and spikers in December.

The oldest stag in the velvet herd is 13.

As a certified velveter, Malcolm cuts the velvet himself. He said it was not hard work, but just took time.

“Anything you rush with deer ends up badly.”

Discussions helpful 

Sheep were probably their biggest earner in 2011-12, but Malcolm Rau expects deer to come out on top this financial year.

He said returns from venison and velvet had been stable during the past five years. Still, the last financial year was one of the best since they took over the farm and sheep played a big part in that.

As well as being involved in the Gisborne branch of the New Zealand Deer Farmers’ Association, Malcolm is one of three deer farmers in his local farm discussion group. He said the group enjoyed some friendly competition and it was a great way to benchmark his farm performance.

“I think you’d get a bit complacent if you couldn’t place yourself against other people.”

He finds the Deer Industry New Zealand website a useful source of information, particularly around animal health, markets and general happenings in the industry.

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