Farming Connect Study Visit - Clwyd NFU
The following report has been written by the farmers and forester who took part in the visits. All views and opinions included are their own.
Ayrshire & Isle of Arran
7th – 10th of May 2017
This study visit to Gledpark Venison, a deer farm in Scotland, was arranged as an opportunity for the group to learn at first hand from a very experienced stockman what is involved in the every day running of a deer farm. The group are generally beef and sheep producers as well as dairy farmers and arable growers. Little diversification is practiced within the group so this visit to Scotland gave an insight as to what could be developed in North Wales, rather than the normal or traditional types of farming practiced by the group at present.
1.1 Day 1
Gledpark Venison Farm
The group undertook a farm walk followed by a very interesting presentation by the farmer. The group had a chance to see the farm’s breeding stock and the type of land required for the herd. The farmer demonstrated using the handling facilities and stressed how important it is for equipment to be designed so that the animal and operator are safe and stress free at all times. The process of culling animals for the meat trade was explained in detail. He also explained how the carcasses are butchered for three different markets: direct to an abattoir for supermarkets and home butchering for individual customers and restaurants. Topics covered during the presentation were marketing of deer for breeding and meat, livestock husbandry and the first steps of changing a business including finding a market for your produce and establishing a deer herd.
1.2 Day 2
Isles of Arran Distillers & Farm History Museum
The group visited the Isle of Arran and the local distillery, Arran Distillery. The group had a tour of the distillery which included a presentation on how the whiskey is made and the importance of locally sourced material to make the end product unique. The group also visited a farm history museum.
1.3 Day 3
Culzean Castle & The Museum of Ayrshire County
The group visited Culzean Castle, The Museum of Ayrshire County and an observatory.
1.4 Day 4
Robert Burns Museum
3) Next Steps
Visiting the deer farm has certainly opened up a discussion on different opportunities for diversification. The group were very impressed by how simple the deer farming system was and how the enterprise ran at a low cost following the initial lay out of £35,000 for fencing and a cost of £500 per animal in the first year. It was noted that farm machinery had little use on the farm and some of the group commented on how they could adapt the same policy on their own farms to reduce capital costs. Some individuals expressed concern regarding whether there was a market for venison but the farmer pointed out that we import over half of what we eat here in the UK and that there was a gap in the market. The group found it interesting that Gledpark were constantly improving their business including the latest addition of approval to the quality assured scheme which made the farm the first deer farm in Scotland to do so.
I strongly believe that some of the group will make further enquiries into deer farming as individuals and I for one would like to look into venison production as a future option for my business. If the visit has not convinced some of the group to keep deer in the future then it has certainly provoked some thought regarding how we run our own business’ in terms of capital costs and making our enterprises as efficient as possible to increase margins and also how we can sell our produce with less dependence on the ‘middle man’, which could lead to increased profits.
I think it would be an interesting development if Farming Connect could facilitate some kind of event regarding deer farming in the future if there is enough interest.