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22 January 2024
Market Commentary

Livestock report: NZ deer industry doing well despite global disruption

Despite a turbulent global situation, New Zealand’s deer market is holding its own and remaining profitable, National Deer and Velvet Manager for PGG Wrightson, Tony Cochrane says.

In December, China left the industry in limbo when it announced it would stop accepting frozen velvet imports bound for its traditional medicinal market from May this year, deciding to use only dried velvet.

This, coupled with shipping networks being disrupted by attacks in the Red Sea could prove challenging for the industry.

However, Cochrane was happy to report only one container had been “bumped” so far and, while China’s decision had put pressure on deliveries, there was another country that could pick up the slack.

“We still have the South Korean market, which is our main consumption market,” he told The Country’s Rowena Duncum.

“But they tend to take a lot of velvet ex-China after it’s processed and also buy direct from us with whole dry stick.”

Overall, things were looking positive for 2024, especially when compared to the turmoil of the previous three years dealing with Covid-19 disruptions, Cochrane said.

“So far, so good. Everything is flowing, and the price of velvet is stable - albeit it’s back, maybe up to 10 per cent on the previous year, but still relatively profitable in competition with other forms of livestock.”

He put it down to Kiwi farmers’ hard work.

“Farmers have lifted the bar with production as well as quality, so that’s paying dividends.

“We know we can do better and we’ve still got a strong future in velvet.

“We’re just getting through the issues of having a lot of stock after Covid and of course, this emerging issue with access which we hope will blow over.”

Meanwhile, back in New Zealand, Cochrane had been busy at the red deer stag sales, which he said were “really good” despite a few “ups and downs”.

“All in all - high prices were paid for high-quality stock.”

Highlights included trophy stags fetching prices over $100,000 but for Cochrane, the standouts so far were the Wapiti bull sales, just completed this week.

“Some really good averages there, $7 - 8k, for primarily venison animals that are taking a bit of an upward demand due to some good frozen contracts with meat companies at the moment.”

Another positive for the industry was trophy hunting, which was making a comeback after years of delays due to the pandemic.

“There’s a strong support from mainly the US and European hunters coming back to New Zealand,” Cochrane said.

“So it’s really good to have three legs to our industry.”

Also in today’s interview: Cochrane talked about the huge stags at the final auction of David Stevens’ Netherdale Red Deer Stud and what’s happening with the venison market.



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