Deer farmers who left the industry for brighter pastures in dairy are being drawn back by strong returns for venison and velvet, a south Canterbury deer farmer says.
Kris Orange farms 1600 weaner deer on 260 hectares in Geraldine, South Canterbury and 1000 hinds on a farm at Dunback, Otago.
He said venison prices were up more than $1 on last year's returns, sitting at about $7.20kg, with expectations of strong growth in the next five to 10 years.
"I know there's going to be quite a bit of demand for weaners this year. There's people looking to enter the market that have been out of the market for three or four years and some new entries, so that'll make the demand for them almost outstrip supply."
Many deer farmers had left the industry and moved into dairy support, such as grazing, Mr Orange said.
"I mean some of those farms have been sold and I know a number of guys that they've ended up with a farm with a deer fence around the outside, and they're sort of thinking, 'I'm not going to be able to winter cows like I did because the cows aren't out there quite the same'. And with the environmental side of things, putting large amounts of cows on small blocks, we've got that to worry about now."
Another indicator of interest in the sector was the price stud stags sold for, he said.
"At a sale in Hamilton just before Christmas, velvet and trophy stags reached $80,000 to over $100,000 each."
Farmers were also choosing to move from sheep to deer farming.
"The likes of Mt Peel Station just around here and White Rock Station...they're all high country places running large amounts of hinds. They've chosen to reduce sheep numbers because its favourable on the dollar side and the work load," Mr Orange said.