Deer farms - Overview of electric fencing and weighing and electronic identification (EID) systems
Saturday, 01 January, 2022
Whether farming for venison, velvet, or stud breeding, electric fencing, weighing, and electronic identification (EID) systems have a significant positive impact on supporting your farming management.
Deer farming systems are based on the same pastoral management principles as those used in sheep and beef systems.
Boundary fencing systems and other key laneways etc are typically constructed from conventional netting fences at least 1.9m high by law although the recommendation is 2m. Permanent internal subdivisions however can be achieved with smooth wire six strand high tensile fences 1.5 m tall. Electric fencing lowers fencing costs enabling more subdivision and better management.
Unlike other livestock, deer feed intake varies dramatically across seasons in response to the length of days – when the days are longer during spring and summer it is high and during autumn and winter it drops off. Originally from colder or temperate climates it’s a characteristic that has developed over several thousands of years in order to survive the sparser months.
Feed programme and its effect on breeding
Balancing pasture supply and demand with these unique requirements is a challenge. Rapid grass growth during spring outstrips the deer’s needs but when the hot dry weather kicks in in summer the grass growth drops off. Unfortunately this also ties in with high feed demands since most hinds will be lactating having had their calves in late spring. The deer’s reproductive cycle is heavily affected by day length as well so it’s difficult to shift the pattern to an earlier calving season when spring grass growth is strong.
Whilst portable electric fencing is a critical tool for pasture allocation on deer farms, it is perhaps even more important to sub divide the crops that farmers are using to keep weight on the hinds in particular during this time. These supplementary feeds also support the rapid weight gain needed to achieve adequate carcass weight when the peak market demand occurs in offshore markets. Such systems require four or five wire tape or braid fencing and sufficient power to keep control in the presence of considerable vegetation. Large portable 12V and solar energizers are specifically designed to overcome this challenge.
As with other livestock breeds female weight during mating is strongly linked to successful conception rate. With deer since the signals to mate are also affected by day length there is a very narrow window to ensure that hinds recover body weight lost during lactation in order to start cycling in time for the rut.
Pre-rut weaning is more common but since this has an effect on calf growth during winter there is a balance between meat production and subsequent season conception rates.
Developing a high performance breeding herd over time that consistently achieves top conception rates and produces quality fawns at weaning requires a strong recording and analysis management programme. Hinds that struggle to get in-fawn at the right time, have trouble fawning or mothering effectively are candidates for replacement. Recording of these factors based on an Electronic ID system provides the most effective and accurate means for quality decision-making around the hind herd. Such a system requires a mobile reading and data capture device and an EID capable weigh scale system.
Venison meat production
Finishing deer requires good feed management practices to achieve the desired weights and condition at the right time. The major market demand occurs in a very narrow time window. Accurate finishing is critical to ensuring animals meet market requirements and achieve adequate carcass weight. Regular weighing provides the information to project where the various mobs will be at future points in time as well as compare different feed sources vs conversion rates. Selection for slaughter based on weighing reduces surprises on the kill sheet, avoids penalties and enables return on each animal to meet targets.
Other farm profitability factors
Clean reliable water supply delivered to the grazing area is critical for stock water demands on pastoral farms. Water reticulation systems need to have sufficient flow capacity and storage to even out the peaks in demand over the season. Gallagher water level monitoring systems help farmers to monitor their storage levels and to identify any problems before water supply is exhausted.
Labour efficiency on farm is another key driver of profitability. Semi-automatic weighing and drafting is becoming a vital resource for average sized deer producers. The initial capital investment cost in this type of equipment is far outweighed by the benefits gained in time and data capture accuracy that enables a higher quality of and confidence in profitable farm management decisions.