Young New Zealand deer farmer, Pip Ewing, is growing healthy New Zealand venison for
Swedish chefs within the embrace of the country’s magnificent Southern Alps.
Pip Ewing, 35, is the fourth generation of her family to farm in the glaciated Matukituki Valley, 20 minutes from the town of Wanaka (44°S latitude, 169°E longitude), on the South Island of New Zealand. The majestic mountain ranges of the Southern Alps and the 3,033 metre high Mount Aspiring peak, are the magnificent backdrop to everyday life for the Ewings.
Originally, the family were sheep farmers, like many in New Zealand at the time, and made the move to the 4,000 hectare Cattle Flat Station, where they now live, in 1971. Nowadays, they mainly farm deer, alongside 3,000 sheep and 1,000 cattle.
Pip Ewing at Cattle Flat Station
“We decided to add deer to the farm 20 years ago because the land and climate here suit deer and give them the opportunity to live as they would in the wild,” Pip explains.
The farm, which gets 1.5 metres of rain each year, now runs 7,850 deer – hinds (female deer), replacements and 350 stags – breeding 4,500 a year to supply the Mountain River venison brand, which they’ve done since they started. Pip works alongside her father, Charlie, to manage the deer herd.
“We have great faith in the continuation of our careful work in raising the animals to Mountain River’s processing of them.”
The farm philosophy is to run the deer very naturally and healthily on pasture all year round at Cattle Flat Station, she comments, adding the welfare of the animals is paramount. No hormone growth promotants are used and antibiotics are only administered by veterinarians if animals are ill, which is rare. In addition, the New Zealand deer industry has a Quality Assurance programme in place, which includes strict rules for the Ewings, and all deer farmers, on all aspects of deer production, including the handling and transport of deer to and from the farm.
The older mixed age hinds are on large hill paddocks where they can roam freely to around 1,500m grazing on native pastures and drinking from natural rainwater and snow-fed water sources. They are only brought down from their paddocks twice a year for weaning and scanning.
“The young deer are raised on the valley floor, 305m above sea level, where the pastures are maintained to keep them fresh and to make sure young deer are performing to the best of our, and their, ability,” she explains, adding they also get extra feed in the winter – brassicas and silage grown on the farm.
“It is very important the young deer get the best we can give them to get them really growing and thriving well,” she says.
The passionate young deer farmer, who loves the outdoors, “and anything that keeps me away from a desk behind a computer,” says she has had no official agricultural training.
“I do have a great leader in my father, though, who has a wealth of knowledge, along with many other wise helpers keen to chip in if asked!”
She describes being a female venison farmer as a great challenge, that she rises to.
“I like to think my gentle touch with the deer while they are in the deer shed is of great benefit to having such a quiet herd of deer,” she says.
When she is less busy at Cattle Flat Station, Sweden is in her sights to visit, “I will get there one day!”