When John and Henny Goffin took over Mauldslie Farm in December 2013 they had ambitious plans to renovate the 430ha unit into an economically sustainable farming unit. The key factor in the plan was to develop a deer breeding and finishing unit to produce finest quality venison for the growing venison market.
The challenges remain substantial. The farm had deteriorated over many years and the productive capacity of the unit had substantially reduced. Over 70% of the fencing required repair or outright renewal. Drainage ditches were blocked and the sheds were in need of significant maintenance.
John and Henny saw the positives in this and it allowed them to think out of the box to develop a unit that was likely to be the most economically successful. They focussed on Red Deer due to its premium product status and the significant and sustained growth in demand. Ultimately they plan to have an 800 to 1000 hind unit which will be built over the next 10 years. In addition, deer will assist in bringing some of the rougher ground back into production in a more sensitive environmental way.
All in all the investment into the farm will be over £600,000 principally over the next 2-3 years. "The financial challenge is great. In addition to livestock acquisition, capital machinery and operational working capital we have significant infrastructure costs and as new entrants to farming we don't currently receive any government or European support which given the establishment costs and investment required compounds the stress". Under the new CAP arrangements the farm will become eligible in 2015 and should receive a SFP by 2016.
Twelve months on, 5 deer fields have been built and the deer herd stands at 120 hinds and 4 stags. "We have critically selected and purchased hinds from farmed herds where we know the provenance and health history of the animals. In addition we have selected 16 hinds and 4 stags from Woburn Deer Park to form the basis of an elite breeding herd within the main herd. This will ensure that we produce the healthiest and best quality venison for the consumer market."
The second phase of fencing and the construction of a dedicated deer shed for wintering calves along with a new handling system commenced in the Springtime, just in time for the arrival of the first calves in May.