Deer farmers, who for the past three decades have claimed they have been excluded from any government support, were yesterday told that two deer demonstration farms would be set up in Scotland to help encourage more new entrants into the sector.
The announcement was made by cabinet secretary Richard Lochhead at a meeting to celebrate Scottish Venison Day in Auchtermuchty in Fife, close to where deer farming pioneers John and Nichola Fletcher set up the first deer farm in Scotland in the 1980s.
Lochhead said the government funding, amounting to £96,000, would come from the Skills Development Scheme, which is part of the Scottish Rural Development Programme.
The money comes in a grant to Scotland Food and Drink and, in making the announcement, Lochhead stressed that it was being done to help increase production of venison from Scotland.
“Venison is a top-quality product that Scotland has at its disposal and one that has still to be fully utilised. There is a clear appetite for venison and it is vital that we look to provide the tools needed for people to move into a sector which is still in its infancy,” said Lochhead.
Currently, the UK is a major importer of venison from New Zealand and the demand for the meat is growing. Of an estimated 3,500 tonnes of venison produced in Scotland annually, only 1 or 2 per cent comes from farmed deer.
Long-term deer enthusiast Frank Spencer Nairn, who chaired the meeting attended by more than 70 existing and potential deer farmers, described the current level of interest in farmed deer as a “new dawn for the sector”.