The Venison Advisory Service Ltd (VAS) is a consultancy established specifically to provide support and advice to those considering setting up a commercial deer farm as a business venture or an additional revenue stream.

deer in fieldThe UK venison market is growing significantly. Demand outstrips supply. Scotland is a major supplier to the UK and European markets, with a current estimated out-turn of some 3500 tonnes per annum, the majority of this coming from the wild red deer cull.

Figures for market growth show that between 2006 and 2009 UK retail sales increased by more than 34 per cent. More recent figures suggest that that growth has accelerated. In January 2016, Sainsbury’s reported that venison sales over the festive period were up 115 per cent on the same period from the previous year.

In 2011, the two main game dealers servicing Scotland imported in excess of 25,000 deer carcases (over 1000 tonnes) from farms in New Zealand, Poland and elsewhere in Northern Europe to keep pace with demand.

Scotland’s deer farms now produce around 50 tonnes of venison per annum, and the wild red deer cull is static (and forecast to decline) creating an even greater vacuum to be filled with imported product.

This is why Scotland’s deer farming sector needs to expand. The drive towards healthier eating, greater awareness of venison as a healthy food, and increasing interest from Scottish Government and its agencies for development in this area all present an encouraging backdrop. Scottish venison also already enjoys an enviable reputation and an excellent image not just in the UK but further afield.

Scotland has a mix of suitable terrain, ideal climate, access to wild stock and access to markets that make deer farming prospects well suited. Indeed, Scotland pioneered the concept of deer farming in the 1970s, although it has never developed here on the same commercial scale as it has in, for example, New Zealand.

stag in fieldThe initiative to encourage more farmers and landowners to consider the commercial opportunities arising from farming deer is gathering momentum. The Scottish Venison Partnership, the pan-sector group that promotes Scottish venison and represents its producers, has estimated that Scotland needs up to 400 more deer farming enterprises to meet demand (an additional 1000 tonnes of venison) by 2020, and more as the market continues to develop.

For those considering the opportunity to enter the sector, or to diversify into deer farming, there is very little advice currently available.

The Venison Advisory Service has been established to provide just that – quality, experienced project-led advice and consultancy to those looking at deer farming as a commercial, revenue-generating opportunity.

Find out more about the services the Venison Advisory Service has to offer to those wishing to get started in deer farming.

The VAS starter guide to deer farming and deer park management, produced as a part of the Scottish Government funded Deer Farm and Park Demonstration Project is available to download here .