Speaking at the recent Deer Industry Conference, Catharine Sayer, Science & Policy Manager of Deer Industry NZ says getting more out of deerskins – currently averaging around $20 each on the schedule – is back on the scope, with some new research set to start in July

The value of New Zealand deerskin exports only fell by around one percent to $5.9 million in the year ending 2018.“This reflects the premium nature of the product,” notes Sayers, adding that even though New Zealand may have been shielded from the worst of global conditions, processors are always looking for ways to improve quality and so returns. Around forty percent of deerskins produced by the New Zealand deer industry slot into the top quality grade and DINZ is seeking ways to get more of the lower quality  into the top band. “The price differential is quite significant,” she says. “I’m told the top grade gets 40 percent uplift on the next grade down.”

Funding will inform us of the impacts of working in new areas and to scope out precise areas where specific research could add value,” explains Sayer, adding the other two pieces of work are likely to relate to breath or saliva-based on-farm diagnostic tests for lungworm and DNA-based venison traceability. Skin quality data will be analysed from at least one of the venison companies, Venison Packers Feilding, which also processes wild/feral deer that have strayed onto and been killed on-farm, she says.

“We will get back skin quality reports from the ‘farm ferals’ and compare them with data from the farmed deer. This gives us an opportunity to compare and  assess the extent to which the end-of-life processes for the farmed deer may be responsible for any defects,” she explains. The scoping work will also look into what has been done on deerskins in the past, by AgResearch, Leather and Shoe Research Association (LASRA) and other providers. Sayer says DINZ would like to build on that knowledge. “We, and DEEResearch, are happy to know there’s a research community out there already whose expertise we can leverage off. We really respect the skills at LASRA, for example, and wouldn’t want to grow leather and skin processing research capability when it is already in existence.

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