A deer farm is a fenced piece of land suitable for grazing that is populated with deer raised for the purpose of hunting tourism or as livestock. Similar species such as elk, moose and even reindeer may be farmed in this method as well, sometimes on the same land. This practice is very different from the way such Arctic communities like the Laplanders migrate in open country with their herds of reindeer.
The technique has expanded in recent years due to the rising popularity of venison.
New Zealand is the largest supplier of farm-raised venison. In 2006 New Zealand had approximately 3,500 deer farms, with an estimated stock of 1.7 million deer.
Deer Farming in New Zealand
The large scale commercial farming of deer started in New Zealand, and New Zealand remains the world's largest and most advanced deer farming industry.
Deer are not native to New Zealand. The first deer were brought to the country from England and Scotland for sport in the mid to late 19th century, and released mainly in the Southern Alps and foothills. The environment proved ideal and the uncontrolled feral populations grew to high numbers. By the middle of the 20th century feral deer were regarded as a pest because of their impact on the native forests. From the 1950s deer cullers were employed by the government to keep the numbers in check.
The export of venison from feral deer started in the 1960s, turning a pest into an export earner. Industry pioneers saw an opportunity to build on this base and in the early 1970s started capturing live deer from the wild and farming them. A new industry was born and rapidly spread throughout New Zealand.
Fears of Chronic Wasting Disease
Since Chronic Wasting Disease, a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy similar to Mad Cow Disease, can pass from wild populations of deer to deer in farms, there has been some fear of contamination of the food supply . Recently, cases of CWD have been found in both farmed and wild cervids in the US and western Canada Chronic Wasting Disease. European farms in Scandinavia may also have had several cases. Farmers now have had tests developed especially for the particular species they raise to obtain better results than those used on cattle.
New Zealand appears to be free of Chronic Wasting Disease. The New Zealand Ministry of Agriculture undertakes an extensive testing programme which would identify the disease if it occurred in the national deer herd.
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