A Hawke’s Bay deer farm is part of a ground-breaking Ministry for Primary Industries' (MPI's) funded project providing a national snapshot of farm performance.
The 4-year project is bringing together detailed physical/production, environmental, and financial data from more than 2,000 farms across the dairy, beef, lamb, deer, arable, and horticulture sectors.
"The significance of this project cannot be underestimated. It is the first time such robust data has been collected and analysed," said Matthew Newman, who’s leading the project for MPI.
"Having quality farm data will enable better decision-making by farmers and growers, industry organisations and policy makers."
Wayne and Jacqui Anderson are one of about 170 deer farmers taking part.
The experienced farm owners diversified into deer in March 2019, buying a 71-hectare (effective) property west of Hastings, which runs 107 mixed-age hinds, replacement hinds, 114 fawns, several breeding stags, sheep and cattle.
The Andersons strive to grow livestock as efficiently as possible, maximising profits while reducing their environmental footprint, and hope the project will provide them with valuable data to improve their deer farm.
"It would be useful to know how we measure up against other deer farms in the region and nationally," Ms Anderson said.
"I want to know if our economic and environmental performance could be better. That sort of detailed sector data doesn’t currently exist."
MPI is partnering with sector groups, such as Deer Industry New Zealand (DINZ), to collate and analyse the anonymised farm data.
Participating deer farmers will all receive a free Farm Environment Plan (FEP).
"The benefits of having a Farm Environment Plan are multi-pronged. They help farmers identify risks within their business and areas for environmental improvement, including reducing agricultural greenhouse gas emissions," Mr Newman said.
There are around 1,000 commercial deer farms across New Zealand, with the largest number located in Canterbury, Southland, and Otago.
"We have already collected data from 40 deer farms. We aim to do a further 40 this financial year. We’ve never gathered this amount of farm-level data from so many deer farms across New Zealand at the same time,” said DINZ producer manager Lindsay Fung.
"We see this as an opportunity to show the environmental gains deer farmers have been quietly making."
Developing a set of robust baseline cross-sector data will help achieve productivity and sustainability targets in the Government’s Fit for a Better World roadmap. This first phase of the farm monitoring programme is expected to be completed by June 2023.