New research gives venison industry million-dollar boost

Date: 10/12/2002

Australia's venison industry is set to receive a million-dollar boost thanks to new research by the University of Western Sydney.

Associate Professor Robert Mulley, agricultural scientist and chief researcher, has discovered new ways to feed deer during the various stages of their development to increase the weight and quality of the meat.

According to Professor Mulley, it is a breakthrough that has the potential to increase Australia's venison export value by millions of dollars.

"We've discovered that a major reason for the lower weight is that deer are being underfed at crucial stages of their development," Professor Mulley says.

"However, by making smarter feeding decisions that suit the specific needs of deer, we can increase their weight and improve the meat quality.

"The venison industry is worth $10 million annually to Australia and around $250 million annually to New Zealand. Given that about 80% of the slaughter weight of a deer is related to what it is fed, these findings are extremely significant for the future of the deer industry."

Professor Mulley monitored the feeding habits of pregnant and lactating red and fallow deer to determine how much to feed them for improved growth.

"By comparing the growth of the self-fed deer and their offspring with those of the control group that were fed a set amount, we were able to determine the exact feeding requirements necessary to produce better quality venison," he says.

Professor Mulley adds that farmers have also assumed that young adults eat about half as much as adult deer, which is not the case.

"Up until now farmers have been using trial and error when it comes to determining how much to feed their deer at critical stages of the production cycle. They have been treating them the same way as sheep, but deer are very different and have specific feeding requirements," says Professor Mulley.

"Our findings also show that from 16 weeks of age, young deer need the same amount as adult female deer to maintain proper development.

"This means that farmers will need to count young deer as adults when determining their feed requirements. This will also impact upon the number of stock that farmers can put onto their land. Where farmers have been estimating that, say 50 young deer are equivalent to 25 adults, they will need to count them as 50 adults.

"Using our latest nutritional information, farmers can improve their deer farming practices. They only need to make a few simple changes to the way they feed deer to significantly improve the export quality of their venison."


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