The red deer were first re-introduced onto the farm by my parents in 1987. There had not been deer on the farm since medieval times when it was a deer park and used by the King for hunting when he was en route from London to Winchester. The original park pales that kept the deer in the parkland can still be seen on the farm but we now use 7 foot high stock fences.
My parents chose deer from well known deer farms to establish their herd and started with hinds from a Woburn/Warnham origin and a young Swedish stag. By retaining the best of their own calves and selective buying, they built the herd up to 100 hinds and 3 stags and through their careful breeding policy, becoming Reserve Champion at Smithfield.
We currently have :
- 70 breeding hinds
- 2 stags (aptly named Mr Darcy and Romeo)
- 65 calves
- 60 yearlings
- 60 two year olds
The deer live outside all year round, with each stag presiding over his harem of hinds. During the Spring, Summer and Autumn, they graze on the abundant grass and are only fed grass silage and some corn during the cold winter months. Our deer herd is Red Tractor Farm Assured and most of the two year old calves are sold as prime venison under contract to Waitrose.
Venison is a healthy meat, being low in fat and cholesterol and high in protein and omega -3 fatty acids. As the venison is farmed, it is of the highest quality and is young and tender.
A Year in the Life of a Deer
The year starts with the rut in early September. During this period the stags can be seen keeping their hinds under control and their presence can be heard by their very deep roar. The stags are particularly dangerous at this time of year as they are very possessive of their hinds and they have a full set of antlers (A).
During the winter, when the grass does not grow they are fed silage and some corn (B). In early spring the stags lose their antlers as a new set begin to grow (C).
The deer calve from mid May until mid June (D). During the summer the young deer grow fast on the lush green grass and clover. The young deer are sold when they are 22- 23 months old for venison (E).
Then the rut begins again…