A change to the structure of funding for deer industry research is not a cost-cutting measure, Innes Moffat, DINZ chief executive says.

“We are committed to current levels (of funding) and if the new model is successful there is the opportunity to increase funding,” he says.

Late last year DINZ announced that the two joint venture groups, DEEResearch and VARNZ (Velvet Antler Research NZ), that have since the mid-1990s co-ordinated and prioritised research will be wound up.

VARNZ was a joint venture between AgResearch and DINZ. It was formed in 1994 when New Zealand was leading the way in velvet-related science driven by a specialist research team at Invermay.

DEEResearch was a three-way partnership between DINZ, AgResearch and Pamu. AgResearch was the major funder contributing about 75% of the annual budget which ranged between $1.8
million and $2 million over the past five years. Pamu, the country’s largest deer farmer, has provided support in kind as well as about $50,000 a year. DINZ has contributed around $400,000 for the past three years and will fund at a similar level for the coming financial year, Moffat says.

Under the new structure velvet and antler will come under the same generic deer research banner.

“In the early stages of the industry it was felt necessary to separate velvet and antler from other deer-related research, but the feeling now is it isn’t necessary because we’re dealing with one animal in an integrated system.”

Research will fall into one of four categories: genetics; environmental stewardship; pre-farmgate; and post-farmgate. Each category will be managed by a steering group of industry representatives, including farmers, who will prioritise research needs.

“I’m not envisaging a wholesale change in the direction or themes of research. What we’re looking for is better engagement from farmers and the wider deer industry.”

Deer farmers are supportive of the move, NZ Deer Farmers Association chair John Somerville says.