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Deer farm benefits from technology

Kiri and Josh Brook with their children June and Liam at their 584-hectare deer farm near Peel Forest in South Canterbury.

After taking over Rupert Red Deer two years ago, Kiri and Josh Brook have reaped the benefit of Kiri’s parent’s hard work in laying the basis for the successful enterprise.

“We signed the contract in July 2017 then bought the stock and plant and leased the land, as part of the succession plan,” Kiri says.

With two fulltime employees and assistance from Kiri’s parent’s Martin and Rikie Rupert, the young couple run 750 mixed-age stags and 550 mixed-age hinds across 584 hectares, divided into three blocks in the Peel Forest and Woodbury areas of South Canterbury.

The business focuses on velvet production which is sold through Provelco into the Asian markets, along with the sale of genetics and surplus stags.

English Red Deer genetics have been imported to improved velvet productivity. Velvet is harvested from spikers (rising one-year-old stags) with two or three cuts are taken over the next year until the two-year-old stags are evaluated.

The decision whether to keep the stags in the herd as future sires or to sell them is made based on velvet weight, antler style, temperament and confirmation. This process calls for meticulous record keeping and excellent digital connectivity.

Deer farming wasn’t something that Kiri and Josh knew much about before taking over the family business. Kiri grew up on a Waikato dairy farm, worked on neighbouring properties and travelled overseas before settling in Geraldine with her husband Josh; an engineer by trade.

With two young children, Kiri’s days are full. She manages the marketing and administrative side of the farm and says reliable connectivity plays a crucial role in the business operation.

Wireless broadband is delivered to the farm via Ultimate Broadband, bounced off a satellite situated on a nearby hill.

“I grew up with the internet and I can’t imagine not having it – we use it to do all the marketing, the (stock) catalogue and website. Some of the stock is advertised through rural agencies, but we have all the available animals up on the online catalogue.”

The business uses Gallagher software for recording velvet weights which provides Kiri access to live information at the touch of a button.

Developing a strong online profile is important for the farm and Kiri spends a lot of time building their profile on Facebook and the website.

Being able to keep in touch on the go is convenient for Kiri.

“It’s great – people just flick through any questions they have; no one makes phone calls at night anymore.”

Positive environment projects are shared via social media, including coverage of the waterways being fenced off over the last two years. Kiri says they have had lots of positive feedback.

“It’s great to have this feedback and we hope to encourage others to do the same.”

Having a reliable internet connection is also vital for her community volunteer work, social contact and a fitness programme. Kiri is the secretary for the local preschool and manages this job from the farm office.

“If I couldn’t do it from here, I couldn’t do it.”

Facebook pages such as Farming Mums offer social contact, while Kiri uses an online fitness programme, and is a member of the Agri-Women’s Development Trust – which provides support and training.

“Having a good internet connection is a vital part of my life – both for growing the business and for support, connections and voluntary work. We wouldn’t be able to operate without it.”

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