Thursday, July 7, 2022

Venison focus

Peel Forest’s new breeding direction dovetailed well with the DINZ Productivity Improvement Programme bottom-line goal of “breeding more heavier and earlier”, Graham Carr said.

“We’re changing genetic focus, moving more to the grass-roots venison farmers. (Velvet) is fascinating but it’s a small part of the industry.”

The stud had developed a simple three-choice system for commercial venison breeders: a B11 for terminal production, a Forrester for the breeding of replacements, and Euros for those who wanted a terminal sire without Wapiti.

“We don’t believe you should confuse bloodlines. You need a terminal sire but you have to use it like one should be used and not keep hind progeny for replacements … the more traits you try to put into one animal the less progress you make,” farm manager Steve Blanchard said.

The B11, 11 years in the making, was a composite terminal sire evolved from extreme growth rate Eastern hinds. They were an “F9 with a huge amount of Atlas and Toby genetics”, Blanchard said.

“What we’re trying to do is breed an animal not too tall and with depth … so far it’s going well.”

He likened Forresters, a replacement breeding stag, to an Angus cow or Romney ewe.

“They’re efficient and hardy and handle the hill country. They’ve got fat cover so they can live off their back if need be.”

Euros were a straight Red terminal-sire option with a predominantly Eastern influence.

B11s made up 90% of the weaners finished at Peel Forest Estate this year. The 1400 weaners, bred at Peel Forest’s Lincoln Hills property, were weaned on to the truck and taken to Peel Forest in the third week of March for finishing on The Poplars, a 182ha “grass factory”.

After injecting with Dectomax on the truck they were run down the ramp into a sheltered paddock for five days and then on to larger saved pasture paddocks and moved every four days for three weeks.

“We like to keep them moving on clean pasture,” Blanchard said.

After another drench and a run through a footbath they were sorted in mixed-sex weight groups. The smaller and mid-weight mobs wintered on 7.5ha of fodderbeet. The heavier mobs were put into six mobs and strip-grazed on saved Italian ryegrass, a Feast and Taboo mix, with supplements of baleage fed in racks. Barley was also fed; 250g every second day from mid-May to mid-July, then 300g daily.

“We try to push the bigger ones along (and) if you want to hit target (weight) barley is a good start.”

It was a labour intensive time but it helped them grow out earlier. Typically winter growth rates average around 160g. This year’s average was a paltry 70g due to a waterlogged August when the farm was thoroughly dowsed with 558mm of rain.

“It was total saturation. We had to tow the barley wagon with a tractor and re-do gateways after … it really knocked the weaners and they probably lost about five to six kilograms.

“By late in October average kill weights were 57kg CW, three to four kilograms behind the previous year.

“Ideally we like to be killing around the 60 kilogram carcaseweight mark.”

B11 three-year-old sale stags.

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