Confidence in the future profitability of venison and velvet production has flowed through to the market for sire stags, with strong sales reported throughout the country, Deer Industry New Zealand says.
Breeders reported a marked improvement on last year's results. Although no stags broke the $100,000 mark, average prices were up strongly for most sales, several by more than 50%. The overall clearance rate was 94%, compared with 83% last year.
Venison schedule prices to farmers normally peak each year in October before the last chilled shipments leave for Europe for the annual game meat season. This season, prices continued to rise into January, with the published average now around a record $10.30kg for a carcass in the preferred weight range, DINZ chief executive Dan Coup said.
"The drivers in the market remain unchanged from last year. Namely, lower production in New Zealand, successful diversification by marketers into new year-round markets and very strong demand for venison from the United States, both for grilling cuts and manufacturing grades," he said.
DINZ Asia market manager Rhys Griffiths said demand for velvet from the two main markets, Korea and China, had been strong this season.
Prices had climbed to levels reached two seasons ago before changes in Chinese hygiene regulations led to a loss of buyer confidence unrelated to the long-term demand for NZ velvet. Total velvet exports reached $43 million in the 2015-16 season, increasing to $59 million in 2016-17.
With a lift in the velvet price and the forecast increase in production, another increase in the value of velvet exports was expected this season, he said.
At Wilkins Farming's South Island sire sale in Southland this month, prices were up 35%.
The same day, Lochinvar stud, Te Anau, sold all 25 wapiti bulls on offer for an average $5400.
Manapouri's Connemara Wapiti also had an excellent sale, with a total clearance and prices up 46%.
Those sales were followed by the sale of a $38,000 wapiti bull at the annual sale at Tikana Wapiti, a record price for the stud.
The 387 kg bull, Forecaster, was the winner of the 3-year-old elk/wapiti category at the National Velvet Competition last year after cutting 12.2 kg of velvet.
Sales of females have dropped, indicating the national hind breeding herd is being rebuilt.