June 2014

ant challenges, country lifestyle, animals which are endearing yet hardy, and an enterprise with a difference? Try deer farming! Members of Women on Farms West Gippsland learned how raising deer compares with more traditional livestock activities when a visit was made to Gracefield, Neerim South in June.

The Edyvanes, Graham and June, have a hilly 96 acre property, picturesque with tall trees, lush pasture and grazing animals.  Red deer, elk, goats and a few cattle create a charming scene. It is also a life of hard work and market challenges.

While deer are relatively easy to manage overall, in that they give birth easily, need drenching but not vaccination, and tend not to have foot problems, they require tall, sturdy fencing and a calming handling shed.  To achieve the least stress when individual animals are managed, Graham designed and constructed an elaborate ‘maze’ of doors, cubicles and safety restraints.

Venison is sold, mainly through the farm gate and farmers markets. Various roast and BBQ cuts, schnitzels, sausages, burgers and gourmet pies are the main products from the wide range available.

Production of this venison has been affected by the controversial abattoir closure at Trafalgar, with subsequent long distance transport now needed for slaughtering. Yet, it is understood that the demand for velvet is good.  This is the soft covering on growing antlers.  Asian markets in particular seek the velvet for its reputed medicinal qualities.  Antlers are cut off annually, at just the critical stage, and then they re-grow.

The Gracefield herd was originally all fallow deer but the Edyvanes found that a cross between red deer and Canadian elk produced a more tractable animal.  The gestation period of eight months is similar to cattle, with multiple births very rare. Mature stock live up to twenty years.

With their elegance, the deer are an attractive adjunct to the holiday accommodation on the property.  Being adjacent to natural bushland and forests, Gracefield offers guests a post card environment in which to relax and enjoy the animals in the hilly paddocks or the venison on a BBQ.

Women of all ages are welcome to join Women on Farms. The key criterion is an interest in farming and farming women. There is no need to be actively farming to participate.  For more details contact secretary, Jean Irvine, ph. 0429488156, or go to our website at www.womenonfarms.org for the monthly program.
For enquiries about this article, contact: Mary Hughes, Ph. 03 5628 4195.