This paper describes the progress of the Deer Improvement breeding scheme that has been in place since 2004. The aim of the programme is to improve venison production through genetic selection for growth rate of lean meat with improved fertility, temperament and mature hind weight. The breeding programme currently comprises 500 hinds bred from stags selected for high growth rate with the intention of increasing hind numbers to over 1,000. This projected increase will be facilitated by the use of embryo transfer to multiply the genes of the top ranked yearling animals, thus shortening the generation interval. As part of the programme, all progeny are DNA parentage tested, weighed frequently during their first 12 months of life and temperament scored. Pregnancy and weaning rates are recorded in the nucleus and progeny testing herds. As a result of selection during the past six years, the average yearling weight has increased by 1.5 kg/yr over all farms involved in the breeding programme. In 2009, male fawns from the nucleus herd reached an average of 100 kg at seven months of age. This is greater than the current industry average of 75 to 78 kg for the same age.
Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 70, Palmerston North, 278-282, 2010
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