Home' Smart Farmer : April 2013 Contents April 2013
By PAULA THOMPSON
THE SOUTH Australian deer indus-
try has contracted to only a few
players in the past few years.
But Adelaide Hills producer Mike
Kasprzak says there are enormous opportu-
nities for the industry.
Mike and his wife Nancy run Deer Farm at
Birdwood, and say their main challenge is to
ensure a big-enough slice of the profit pie
goes to producers.
"There's no doubt this is a sustainable,
sought-after product," Mike said.
"We just need to get a fair price for the
While there are start-up costs involved
with getting into deer production, such as
high fences, in many instances existing
shearing sheds and yards can be altered to
"They are easy animals
to farm," Mike said.
Feed is generally not
an issue, with little sup-
"Our deer have been
given a daily grain ration in the last two
years, due to the dry conditions," Mike said.
"But, prior to that, from autumn to spring
they got by just on the grass.
"We had been using lupins as a grain
ration, but their price became too expen-
sive, and now we use barley and lucerne
Deer Farm runs about 600 mature deer
and about 200 fawn.
Stocking rates for deer are much the same
as for sheep, at about 10 dry sheep equiva-
lent a hectare.
Mike and Nancy use Australian fallow
deer and Persian bloodlines.
"We purchased six straws of Persian
semen from an auction in Victoria," Mike
"The hybrids with Australia fallow pro-
duce a much bigger animal."
The six straws of Persian semen was used
over half a dozen does, and from that origi-
nal seedstock, the couple now run about
150 Persian deer.
"A two-year-old Persian doe will weight
about 80 kilograms, compared with a fallow
doe at between 40-45kg," he said.
"Fallow bucks usually weigh 70-80kg and
Persian bucks go between 100 and 120kg."
When the deer reach two years of age,
Mike and Nancy select their best animals to
keep as breeders, and the rest go for meat.
"We grow our males to two years old and
pick the best for future breeding," he said.
"The rest are castrated and go for meat."
Usually only the top 15 per cent to 20pc
of their bucks are kept as breeders.
While there is a big export for South
Australian deer, the high
$A makes market expan-
"For the past 20 years
Australian venison has
been exported to the
United States, Malaysia
and Germany," Mike said.
"But the $A is working against us -- it's
very hard to manage the price."
Mike and Nancy do their own marketing,
selling to a range of wholesalers, plus retail
outlets such as Mount Compass Venison.
They aim to expand the reach of deer in
the restaurant trade.
"We're working with chefs to nail-down
the exact specifications they require and
getting customer feedback from them,"
"There's good demand from consumers for
the meat, and chefs love it.
"The selling point to chefs is that you get
a consistent quality when selling venison at
a certain age."
Mike says venison will always be more of
a niche product than a mainstay such as
beef, but there is still huge potential from
the niche market.
"We want the industry to get back to its
rightful place," he said.
"We have a premium product and our goal
is to receive $8/kg for it. And, I think we'll
get there -- chefs are already prepared to pay
"This meat has developed into a premium
product with the chefs, but farmers haven't
seen the benefit.
"What we're trying to do is establish deer
as a mainstream farm investment, and the
reality is that this meat sells at a premium."
Who: Mike and Nancy Kasprzak
Business: Deer Farm at Birdwood in the
Products: Stud animals, commercial
Deer farmers aim
for niche market
Mike and Nancy Kasprzak (top), who run Deer Farm at Birdwood, say their main challenge is to
ensure a big-enough slice of the profit pie goes to producers. "We have a premium product and
our goal is to receive $8 a kilogram for it. And, I think we'll get there -- chefs are already prepared
to pay for it," Mike said.
There is no doubt this is a
product -- we just need a
Easycare animals 'dream' to run
ADELAIDE Hills producers Mike and
Nancy Kasprzaks concentrate on three
main areas in their deer breeding: tem-
perament, body weight and constitu-
Mike says one of the best aspects of
deer farming is the lack of animal wel-
"They don't have any worm problems,
so you don't need to do any worming,"
"Deer are generally good mothers, so
there's no need to assist with their
"In a way, deer are a farmer's dream
to run -- they are good mothers, with
easy births, no need to worm, and their
meat is a premium product that's in
Groups of 35 to 40 does are run with
The bucks are kept in separate pad-
docks, with strong fencing between
them to discourage fighting.
For the fallow deer, bucks are put in
with the does in April to June, with most
serviced in the first month to six weeks.
Persians are put in a month earlier,
with a different cycle to the Australian
While the Persian deers are a much
plainer animal than the Australian fal-
low, their body size makes them worth
running in a herd.
"Persians heads are very simple, very
plain and easy to produce," Mike said.
"But by using three-quarter Persian
bucks over fallow deer, over time you
end-up with a deer with a good head,
good body and good temperament."
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