Rob Millar, who has a BCom in Agriculture, is our Deer Supply Manager based out of Methven, Canterbury. A typical week involves visiting and being in contact with suppliers, organising stock numbers for the factory and seeing if we can “have a crack” at finishing more deer.
Last week we joined Rob while out visiting some farms across the region…
Due to the role being heavily based around relationship building, when Rob first started, he spent a lot of time meeting and getting to know a large number of farmers, meeting new ones, and following up on leads. Now, Rob has relationships that allow him to organise supply to meet last minute orders - supply on tap or on standby.
As he works a large mix of farmers who supply Mountain River Venison (around 150 family farmers, ranging from small to large farms), co-coordinating the flow of deer to meet market requirements is a very important task!
As a Deer Supply Manager, his days start at 5.30 am with a trip to the gym or even a phone call if there is an issue with stock at the factory. The bulk of the day is often office-based; attending to emails, issues and forward planning, but plenty of time is still spent on the road visiting farmers.
He’ll have a list of tasks (aptly named A, B and C Tasks) and work around these as the phone starts ringing! Depending on what day it is, there may be more focus on certain tasks: for example, Wednesdays and Thursdays usually involve getting next week’s stock plan in place.
Although the phone can still go until 9 pm, evenings tend to be quieter now as the use of cellphone and email is increasing with farmers. Rob finds there needs to be flexibility in his role, particularly around the organising of harvesting numbers. He explains,
“When last week started, I had 700 deer to kill, by Thursday it turned into 900, then on Friday back to 800 ish. The harvesting plan can take a few hours to a few days sometimes. You try and be flexible but sometimes you’ve got to put the foot down too”.
Each farmers’ work schedules are dependent on what system they operate and can be influenced by the season. Rob plans his visits when farmers have more time to catch up, rather than a flying 5-minute visit.
During spring-summer, deer growth rates are at their peak and it can become quite the juggling act between fitting deer in at the plant and meeting market/shipping requirements. In winter, there can be more time to visit suppliers and sort forward contract.
Aptly based centrally in Mid Canterbury, Robs’ role involves driving north or south to reach each farm (while making hands-free phone calls along the way with the help of his Bluetooth kit). In a moment of serendipity, Robs work ute ticked over 200,000 km while we were with him. To put this into context, imaging driving the length of New Zealand's’ South Island - the 12th largest island on the planet - 238 times in 5 years!
He undertakes monthly and annual analysis to track how farmers are going compared to last year, how they’ve performed and how the agents have performed. Rob also coordinates with regular deer trucking companies to get livestock to the plant each week and also oversees the monthly transport numbers, rates and the costs. The on-farm quality assurance program for deer farming is performed by an independent auditor but overseen by Rob.
Lastly but certainly not least, the role requires a lot of market knowledge (primarily because the farmers expect it, of course) but also so that he has his finger on the pulse of all the latest happenings in the industry. He's very well-informed about deer farming practices and genetics, making him a great source of information!
Although the days can be long, Rob enjoys the variety of work and challenges the role brings. What’s more, the people he meets and relationships he develops with farmers make it worth the endless phone calls and driving km’s!
When he's not working as Deer Supply Manager, he is also a keen hunter and outdoors man!