Venison Farming Anything but Dear

by Stuart Milne

Saturday, May 20th, 2017

Malcolm Taylor advises Scots farmers to be alert to investing opportunities in deer farming by Scottish PR Agency

SCOTS FARMERS need to be more alert to the opportunities of investing in deer farming as a suitable enterprise to complement stock farming, a leading agriculture expert has advised.

Malcolm Taylor, a rural land management partner at Bell Ingram, with growing consumer demand for venison and upland grass farms facing an uncertain future with falling subsidies, Brexit and independence uncertainties, exploring the option of deer farming makes perfect sense.

Scotland currently imports nearly 1,000 tonnes of venison to meet demand while only two per cent of the 3,500 tonnes produced at home is from farmed stock.

Malcolm said low start-up costs and a good return on stock make deer farming a potentially rewarding prospective investment.

He said: “The consumption of venison meat rose from sales of £43 million in 2009 to sales of game meat (mainly venison) in the region of £95m in 2014 – a number which has continued to grow and has been valued at £106m in 2016.

“There is a wealth of experience to tap into from those that are farming deer for profit.

“What’s more, several lending institutions are happy to consider lending to establish deer farming – a sure sign of the positive outlook for the sector.”

Once established, there is a relatively low labour demand for looking after deer, allowing it to fit in with existing stock management.

While fencing is the major investment, buildings are not essential for producing store calves, as deer are well suited to harsh environments. Deer are also the most efficient animals at convening low-quality herbage as well as silage and turnips into quality low-fat healthy meat.

Until recently the lack of abattoir facilities was regularly cited as one of the barriers to the growth of deer farming, but the establishment of a new purpose-built facility in Fife could now open the market.

Malcolm added: “The economics are attractive – the average cost of a breeding hind is £300 – £500 and a stag will cost anything between £500 and £2,000.

“Typically, farms run 30 to 50 hinds with one stag. In theory, deer farming looks to be a suitable enterprise to complement stock farming.

“My hope – and encouragement – is that more farmers and landowners will rise to the challenge of investing in more home-produced venison.”

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