The Scottish Venison Partnership has welcomed Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead’s announcement made on Scottish Venison Day 4 September of a significant funding package to enable two deer demonstration units in Scotland to be set up.
The UK venison market is recording growth of up to 20 per cent per annum plus, although Scottish venison’s share of this is reducing through a static annual wild red deer cull and not having developed new deer farming enterprises on a scale to input significant volumes into this market. Scotland produces in the region of 3500 tonnes of venison per annum of which just 50 tonnes come from farmed deer. New Zealand by contrast produced just under 23,000 tonnes of venison in 2011/12.
The Scottish Government, through the Skills Development Scheme, will be injecting £96,500 over two years into a total £131,000 project, the balance coming from in-kind contributions from the project partners and the Venison Advisory Service.
The bid for funding, led by Scotland Food and Drink, was assembled by a small working group including the Scottish Venison Partnership, NFU Scotland and SFQC. Stephen Gibbs, Chairman, The Scottish Venison Partnership, said:
“We are extremely grateful to the Scottish Government for enabling this venture which is the first small step in what has been billed as a new dawn for deer farming in Scotland. We believe that there is a tremendous future for Scottish venison and these two demonstration units will be vital in providing a lot more information to those interested in diversifying into deer farms or parks, or indeed starting from scratch.
“The demonstration unit project amalgamates three tested formulae in the rural sector of Monitor Farms, Wild Deer Best Practice Days, and the SL&E demonstration days, and Government funding has been crucial in the delivery of these schemes. We have every intention that this too will be a flagship initiative and a first for the farmed deer sector the UK.”
The demonstration unit project will involve a series of day-long visits to a selected deer farm over a 12 month period to cover all aspects of the deer farming year. These will involve both seminar activity and hands-on practical demonstrations and experience. The programme will be supported by an online manual and run as a sub-domain of the Scottish Venison Website, which also hosts the Deer in Scotland Education Zone for schools developed by SNH.
Year 2 will be based at a different location and focus on deer park production, but with a similar approach. The project target is to reach an audience of 200 prospective new venison producers or breeders/finishers over its two-year period. A selection process to identify the two participating units will run shortly with the programme commencing in early 2014.
Dick Playfair of the Scottish Venison Partnership, and a director of the Venison Advisory Service says:
“We have a sectoral target to increase venison production from Scotland by an additional 1200 tonnes by 2020 and, with a static wild red deer cull, this will have to come from deer behind fences or from substitution of roe for red which requires a number of other complex factors also to be addressed. Even with UK market growth at a modest 10 per cent, we estimate that the UK will still require imported product in increasing quantities to satisfy demand – so this exercise is not about reducing imports at all, but rather making sure that Scotland does not lose its share of this very dynamic, growing market.”
The Scottish Venison Partnership is the pan-industry producer-led initiative in Scotland covering both public and private sector, and wild and farmed deer, and comprises:
- Association of Deer Management Groups
- British Deer Farms & Parks Association
- Cairngorms National Park Authority
- Forestry Commission Scotland
- Scottish Federation of Meat Traders Association
- Scottish Gamekeepers Association
- Scottish Natural Heritage
- Scottish Quality Wild Venison (SQWV)
- The three SQWV assured game dealers – Ardgay Game, Highland Game and Yorkshire Game, and
Jeremy Dixon, Ochil Foods (co-opted member)
- Richard Barclay, Rannoch Smokery (co-opted member)