Deer farming offers huge potential

Deer farming is about to take off in Scotland after a couple of decades where the sector has been disadvantaged through the not being eligible for subsidy.

The home market is struggling to meet the consumer demand for venison. Picture: Ian Rutherford
The home market is struggling to meet the consumer demand for venison. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Yesterday, more than 80 landowners and farmers from across the country heard Dick Playfair, of the Scottish Venison Partnership, state that there was unmet demand in the market. “The retail market for venison is growing at between 10 and 
25 per cent per annum,” he said.

“Even with ambitious plans to expand deer farming in Scotland and increasing output by an additional 1,200 tonnes per annum by 2020, if the market continues to develop at the current rate then the UK is still likely to be a net importer of venison.”

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He was speaking at the Deer Farm Demonstration Project held at Ali Loder’s Culquoich farm in Glenkindie, when he also said that the high level of interest in deer farming in Scotland was partly based on the sector not being disadvantaged by the forthcoming area based subsidy scheme.

Work has started on creating a large 1,000 hind herd on Arniston estate ten miles south of Edinburgh, but Playfair reckoned Scotland could cope with a number of others of similar size without any difficulty.

Loder has been deer farming for the past ten years and he explained to his visitors the background to his deer farming, including husbandry details such as farm layout, fencing and moving the deer as well as winter feeding.

Over the years he has also developed an indoor handling system. Yesterday was the first of a number of open days on the farm – with the next one in June looking at funding, finance and deer health.

The project has been funded by the Scottish Government with Cabinet secretary for rural affairs and the environment Richard Lochhead stating that because Scotland’s venison sector had yet to realise its full potential, the Scottish Government had committed to securing a sustainable future for the industry.

The project also had the support of the National Farmers Union of Scotland. Union regional manager Lisa Roberts said that, with the backdrop of a reduced common agricultural policy budget, it was critical farmers and land managers had access to projects such as deer farming so they could “seize the emerging opportunities”.