The first day of the Deer Farm Demonstration Project will be held on Tuesday 15 April at Culquoich, Glenkindie, Strathdon courtesy of Ali Loder.
The opening day, which is the first of five days spread across the year offering an insight into deer farming for those who might wish to diversify into deer either for venison production or breeding stock, has around 60 farmers, land managers and landowners registered , in addition to a number of specialists from the sector (and a waiting list to attend).
The opening day provides a background to deer farming in general and includes an introductory walk and talk tour of Culquoich looking at certain areas in more detail such as farm layout, fencing and moving the deer; winter feeding; turning out in-wintered yearlings; an introduction to pasture management for deer; and an overview of the indoor handling system.
As the project progresses its content will become more topic focused. The second day on 10 June has funding, finance and deer health scheduled as well as a number of seasonal on-farm topics.
The Deer Farm and Park Demonstration Project is a two-year initiative built around a total of 10 demonstration days to encourage farmers, land managers and land owners to look at the opportunities of farmed and park deer. The UK retail market for venison is quoted as growing at between 10 and 25 per cent per annum but, even with ambitious plans to expand deer farming in Scotland and to increase output by an additional 1200 tonnes per annum by 2020, if the market continues to develop then the UK is still likely to become a net importer of venison by this time.
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment Richard Lochhead said: "Scotland's venison sector has yet to realise its full potential and the Scottish Government is committed to developing that promise and securing a sustainable future for the industry.
"We have provided funding for the establishment of this demonstration project - the first of its kind in Scotland and the UK - which will be a crucial resource for those looking to get into the sector. It means they can gain a greater understanding and knowledge of the work needed to be a success in the sector, and Culquoich will provide an insight which can only benefit those with aspirations to grow Scotland's venison production."
Lisa Roberts, Regional Co-ordination Manager, NFU Scotland, said: "NFU Scotland is delighted to support this project, which aims to give participants the knowledge and confidence to explore potential diversifications into deer farming. The venison sector has huge untapped potential, and with a backdrop of a reduced CAP budget, it’s critical farmers and land managers have access to projects such as this to recognise and seize the emerging opportunities that exist across all sectors."The Deer Farm and Park Demonstration Project is a partnership initiative between Scotland Food and Drink, NFU Scotland, SFQC Ltd, the Scottish Venison Partnership and Culquoich Estate. A significant proportion of funding for the project has been made available through the SRDP Skills Development Scheme which is jointly funded by the Scottish Government and the European Union.