Scottish farmers are being told to be more alert to the opportunities of investing in deer farming as a suitable enterprise to complement stock farming.
Malcolm Taylor, a leading agriculture expert at Bell Ingram, said with growing consumer demand for venison and upland grass farms facing an uncertain future with falling subsidies, Brexit and independence uncertainties, exploring the option of deer farming makes perfect sense.
Scotland currently imports nearly 1,000 tonnes of venison to meet demand while only two per cent of the 3,500 tonnes produced at home is from farmed stock.
Mr Taylor said low start-up costs and a good return on stock make deer farming a potentially rewarding prospective investment.
He said: “The consumption of venison meat rose from sales of £43 million in 2009 to sales of game meat (mainly venison) in the region of £95m in 2014 – a number which has continued to grow and has been valued at £106m in 2016.
“There is a wealth of experience to tap into from those that are farming deer for profit.
“What’s more, several lending institutions are happy to consider lending to establish deer farming – a sure sign of the positive outlook for the sector.”
'The economics are attractive'
Until recently the lack of abattoir facilities was regularly cited as one of the barriers to the growth of deer farming, but the establishment of a new purpose-built facility in Fife could now open the market.
Mr Taylor added: “The economics are attractive - the average cost of a breeding hind is £300 - £500 and a stag will cost anything between £500 and £2,000.
“Typically, farms run 30 to 50 hinds with one stag. In theory, deer farming looks to be a suitable enterprise to complement stock farming.
“My hope – and encouragement – is that more farmers and landowners will rise to the challenge of investing in more home-produced venison.”
British game meat has been pinpointed as one of the world’s top 50 consumer growth markets thanks to the success of venison as an alternative to mainstream red meats.