Most of Hartpury’s agriculture students are used to handling lambs and calves but a new initiative at the college – the only one of its kind in the country – is seeing them get hands on with a herd of deer, with Rudolph leading the way!
Although several colleges are known to keep wild deer, students at the Gloucestershire-based college have a unique opportunity to get up close as they take on the care and rearing of the animals.
It’s the job of the students to help out with the 62 calves weaned from this year’s calving, and they’ve been getting hands on with weighing them at birth as well as feeding, worming, drenching and tagging the new arrivals.
The college’s herd consists of 42 English bloodline red deer and 43 European bloodline red deer, who are all breeding hinds (female deer). There are also three main breeding stags (males) looked after by the college, including one named Rudolph! This year the college will add 10 extra yearling females to the breeding herd.
Hartpury’s livestock instructor, Georgina Lamb, said: “The herd provide a great opportunity for the students to get involved in something that they are unlikely to have experienced before – not everyone keeps deer! The students get to learn a lot and are really involved in their care during their time here.
“It’s an industry that will continue to grow more in the future due to a higher demand for venison.”
Hartpury are part of an upward trend across the UK with farmed deer becoming a more popular option as the agriculture sector looks to diversify. It is hoped that the deer at the college will give the agriculture and game diploma students experience for their CVs that very few others will have.
Despite the increase in farmed deer, it is estimated that venison imports will double in the next five years. Hartpury are currently ahead of the curve and Georgina and the rest of the agriculture team at the college are hoping to take on some trials in the future to look at different types of feed and feeding patterns with the aim of expanding the herd.