Good venison comes from young deer that have led a healthy, low stress life, and that’s what we pride ourselves on producing every time.
Until 30 years ago red deer were wild animals. They’re domesticated now, but still need careful handling so we farm them as small herds on large pastures. First Light young, or yearling, venison is delicate, mild flavoured and super tender. Cook it fast and hot, or simmer it low and slow for the afternoon — its healthy, it’s interesting and most importantly its delicious!
The Stag sale
The Stag sales is a much looked forward to annual event where the First Light deer breeders get together to buy the new season’s young stags. Each stag comes with a pedigree that is an indicator of those key attributes it will pass on to its progeny. A great First Light deer shares a number of traits with a great All Black loose forward — calm temperament, good muscle confirmation and a robust constitution. The stag sale is also a great chance to catch up with old friends and compare war stories over a refreshment or two and a bite to eat.
As the name suggests, this is where the stags run around yelling and feeling important. Red deer stags start losing their sense of humour late summer and are fully fired up by the start of Autumn. One stag will have up to 80 girlfriends (hinds) and a conception rate upwards of 95%. At the end of the season the stags head back to their home paddock for a well-earned rest. The hinds will carry their fawns for the next 8 months and give birth in early Spring. One neat fact about hinds is they can hold on to their fawns for up to 2 weeks to ensure they give birth when conditions are just right.
Fawning and Weaning
Fawns are about as cute as little animals get, unfortunately their mothers are super protective and good at hiding them so you rarely get to see them when they are little. Unlike humans they get up and on with life quickly so it isn’t long before they appear out of the grass. Like humans there comes a point when they start exercising their rights, at which point it is better for everyone that they leave home. Leaving home for young First Light deer is called weaning, it means a quick truck ride with your mates down from the hills and onto the warmer flats and the good grass.
Finishing and Animal Health
The warm flat land is where the rubber hits the road. Our red deer get the absolute best care and attention and will grow at half a kilo a day on a mixture of rye and clover grasses, supplemented with a herb crop for variety and extra nutrients. Good deer farmers are calm and patient, they know that deer love nothing better than making you late for the rugby.