Peel Forest Estate test deer under commercial conditions

Peel Forest Estate recognised some time ago that commercial deer farming was moving rapidly towards the harder hill country, and that a different type of female line was needed, says stud manager, Steve Blanchard.

“As a stud we are very aware of this shift and the need for us to produce the right animals to perform in the changing environment.”

Last year Peel Forest Estate purchased a neighbouring 3500 acre hill block where a large number of its Forrester hinds are being put out to fawn this season.

“We sell animals to commercial farmers so have to be able to test them under commercial conditions. It’s quite exciting to be able to challenge the animals in this way and we’re confident they will prove themselves.”

He says the introduction of an even harder hill country block (carrying on from its Lincoln Hills block), is a big plus for the substantial South Canterbury stud and commercial deer operation.

“It means we can assure our clients that our stock has already performed in similar country to theirs, so will do well for them too.”

The operation is carrying around 2500 hinds of which 2300 are stud stock. This includes all Forresters, trophies, velvet, Peel Forest’s own B11 terminal sire bloodline, and the Windermere herd it purchased last year.

Steve says the Peel Forest Estate team is always prepared to “try a few things” and see how they go.

“We can’t sit back and think things are just going to happen. As stud breeders we are also conscious we have quite a few lines so it’s important we treat them equally so nothing gets left behind.”

The B11 terminal sire bloodline was developed and trademarked by Peel Forest Estate.

It is a composite with elk and high DBV Reds for growth rate.

“We are planning to AI the B11 hinds again this year, introducing a slightly different breed line to keep diversity in the genetics and add to the carcass.”

The terminal sires are easy to manage, reliable, and produce fast growth rate fawns, he says.

“We get a lot of consistent repeat buying for our B11 sires, and have already taken a large amount of bookings this year. Some clients even have a standard order in place two years ahead.”

There is also good interest in this year’s Forrester maternal sires which produce hardy, robust, fertile, quiet hinds that are able to handle the stresses of more extensive commercial farming, says Steve.

Both Peel Forest’s terminal and maternal sires are also extremely resilient to Johne’s disease, which has been another major focus of the operation’s breeding programme for the last 11 years.

“Some really exciting things are starting to come out of the Johne’s programme. We are seeing consistency in the research of both resilient and susceptible animals which is giving us some powerful information to use in selecting matings and breedings.”

Clients are also saying their problems are disappearing with the use of Peel Forest’s Johne’s resistant genetics.

“It’s the ultimate to have clients come back and say that. It’s a good feeling and gives us evidence we are on the right track.”

All stock are DNA recorded at birth, with EID tags on all animals.

“We used EID for four years before it became compulsory. It’s a fantastic, accurate tool for stud breeders. It works great with our automatic weigh scales and a couple of wands, which means we can have both sheds going at the same time.”

Peel Forest Estate is now gearing up for its upcoming stag sales across all its lines.

“Normally at our early sale we sell the venison Euro sires and sometimes a few top end maternal sires. The B11’s and some Foresters are sold privately as well, and we’re thinking about having a December sale for our venison animals again, although that’s not set in concrete.”

There are already strong early bookings, he says.

“No animals physically leave here until the end of January so there are plenty of opportunities for buyers to get their name down for a high quality Peel Forest Estate stag.”