Elliot and Anna Brock
“We only use one Seed Force product but it’s a very good one.”
Fodder beet grazing systems for deer are a genuine Kiwi innovation developed in the South Island and nowhere is it better managed than by the Brocks at Merino Downs near Gore.
“We only use one Seed Force product but it’s a very good one,” says Elliot referring to SF Brigadier fodder beet, which he and fellow manager and father Eddie Brock, have used for nine years.
The Brocks farm 1600 mixed aged stags, 750 breeding hinds, and 750 mixed-sex weaners across a 100ha block in Kelso and a 360ha block at Merino Downs.
Elliot says fodder beet is the cheapest source of ME supply after pasture and it’s readily eaten by all classes of deer. They use it to winter adult stock and accelerate finishing of young stock.
Elliot says high quality pastures and high-yielding fodder beet crops are the essentials for their increased quality velvet production. “On the beet the stags are on an upwards plane through winter, whereas on swedes they struggle to maintain their body weight. They increase evenly through the winter and when they come off the beet they fire into the grass. They’re already going up.”
For the first five years the Brocks planted fodder beet as a second crop after swedes, but now they double crop the fodder beet. “We sow our second crops really early, between 5 and 10 October, and we’re getting well over 30 tonne of dry matter to the hectare.” This year they planted 50ha in SF Brigadier. The deer graze it for 70-80 days from mid-June and are transitioned off in age groups.
Elliot says the early sowing is important and while it means there is an extra spray required, the extra yield justifies the expense. Acidosis is not a feature of deer in fodder beet systems so unlike cattle there is a minimal transition requirement to maintain animal health. “I make sure they have a full belly and I open the gate. Deer are able to digest the flesh better for some reason. ”
The Brocks hold their annual sire stag sale mid January. The stags have weighed up well, have heads like kauri trees, and are looking impressive. With stags named Summit, Mitre, Joseph and Parker, it’s easy to see the effect SF Brigadier is having on production goals.