24 July 1998

Producers wanted to satisfy improving demand for venison

A GROWING market for venison means Wootton Prime Venison is looking for other potential producers.

Wootton Prime Venison was set up to market venison from the red deer at JCBs Wootton Farms Estate, Andrew Head told BGS visitors to the 1700ha (4200-acre) estate. Currently, 1200 animals are sold through the company, but there are plans to expand sales to 5000 animals a year, many more than can be produced on the estate.

The finishing enterprise takes stags and hinds not needed for replacements from the 950-head herd and buys in stags for finishing. Last year it achieved a gross margin of £76 a stag and £59 a hind.

After weaning calves are housed for finishing from 16 to 27 months old. They are finished at about 100kg liveweight, with stags finishing faster than hinds, ensuring a constant supply of carcasses, he said. In winter, finishers are fed chopped or baled silage and 90g of a soya and barley concentrate at 18% crude protein a day, and 70-80g of concentrate after turnout in April.

The deer herd is managed on fenced pastures and parkland on the estate, with calves born between May and July, he added.

The best 500 hinds, based on calf growth and weaning weight, are mated with the top stags in groups of 35-40 to produce replacements. The rest are kept in groups of 120 with three to four stags to produce calves for venison.

"Adult hinds are managed on grass and receive no concentrate unless they are in poor condition after weaning and a small supplement of 0.25kg a head around turnout in early April," said Mr Head. They achieved a gross margin of £90 a hind in 1997 and were stocked at 6.4/ha (2.6/acre).