Deer Farming

A Galloway cow with her calf in a field

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Becoming an Organic Farm

Last month, we began to convert our Downfield Farm into an organic farm. The transition will take two years and we are working closely with Scottish Organic Producers Association (SOPA).  So by 2021, Stagison meat will be organic.

Why go organic?

As a company, we already strive to be ethical and sustainable in our farming. We believe the best meat comes from healthy, happy animals. We ensure our livestock have plenty of outdoor space and they eat a natural diet. They are not transported for slaughter because we have our own humane abattoir on site. We don’t use chemical fertilisers or pesticides on our crops either. Organic farming uses natural processes to achieve a sustainable production system at each stage with limited external inputs. Working with SOPA, we want to make sure all our processes are fully organic. Every step of production must pass inspection before we receive an organic certification, and we are committed to achieving this.

What steps are we taking?

We plan to increase our herd of native breed Black Galloway cattle. We’ll keep the females as replacement breeding heifers, and the bullocks will produce meat for our Ceres Butchers shop. The Black Galloway is a good-natured and easy-keep cow. We outwinter them on a fodder crop of rape, lying back on the stubble straw and supplemented with home grown straw and silage.

We have a small flock of Manx Loaghtan sheep, another hardy native British breed. The farmyard manure from the cattle housed over the winter will be our main fertiliser for the ground. Supplemented with trace minerals, as soil analysis recommends.

Cereal crops we grow on the farm are currently winter wheat and spring barley, without chemical fertilisers and pesticides. We hope to improve the soil and manage the crops using crop rotation so that the farm is sustainable and self-sufficient in the future.

Ultimately, we will produce organic cereal crops, organic native breed beef and organic lamb. We look forward to Downfield becoming an organic farm, as we continue to support ethical, sustainable and local farming.

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Downfield Farm Deer grazing

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Jane and Robert Prentice of Downfield FarmVenison has become a popular alternative to beef and lamb over recent years, and it’s appearing frequently on UK restaurant menus. The UK still imports venison meat from New Zealand and Europe. But, more recently, Scotland has become one of the largest producers of this fine meat. Stagison Venison owners Jane and Robert Prentice have utilised their land on Downfield Farm to operate deer farming in Scotland. And it’s the only field to fork venison farm in the country.

Five Years of Deer Farming in Scotland

Five years ago, Jane and Robert Prentice first made the move into deer farming, following a change in cattle farming policy. The couple found they had a spare shed, extra grazing and winter feed. So, after spotting a gap market, they decided that they would not only operate deer farming in the UK, but they would also open Scotland’s first venison abattoir. This would mean that deer would no longer need to travel to Yorkshire to be slaughtered, which would save them time and money.

Making the Changes on the Farm

Jane and Robert Prentice of Downfield FarmAfter operating as a mixed farming business for years, they needed to make some changes to accommodate the deer. First, they needed to modify the empty shed and fields. They introduced higher fences and barriers, new gates and reduced opening on the feed barrier. Deer are generally naturally health animals, and the only medicine they usually require is annual worming treatment.

Feeding the deer is also simple. In the summer, they graze on grass. And in winter, they feed inside on high protein grass silage, which is made in the summer and preserved.  Their food can be supplemented with grains, oats, and a balance of minerals, which makes them easier to handle. In the warmer months the deer love to spend time outside. And when it’s cold, the deer are brought inside where they have straw to eat, sleep on and play in.

Making Changes to Scottish Farming

As the farming industry continues to change due to environmental and economic issues, many farmers are looking for sustainable alternatives to cattle and arable production. One of the ways in which farms can diversify is by entering the deer farming sector. With low labour input, deer farming is a great way to boost income. And, by creating more deer breeding centres in Scotland, UK consumers will not need to import venison from abroad. Also, it provides an opening for many European importers.

Venison meat is low in fat and high in nutrition, and as demand increases, so do the opportunities for deer faming in Scotland. So, to find out more about this family-run farm and deer farming in Scotland, get in touch with Stagison today.

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Downfield Farm on a sunny day in Fife

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It’s so important to buy local produce wherever possible. By putting money into local businesses, you are helping to strengthen your local community and economy. And by reducing the need for transportation of products, you are also helping the environment. Currently, the UK imports around a third of its venison produce from New Zealand and Europe. So, when you are food shopping in Scotland, please check the labelling and buy Scottish venison if you can.

Buy Scottish Venison in Scotland

Buy Local sign at a Farmers MarketVenison is a delicious, healthy and versatile meat, which is growing in popularity. And as demand rises, the number of deer farms in Scotland and the UK rises too. By supporting local farmers, you can really make a difference in your community. Look for local farms to buy your meat from, or find a Farmers’ Market, to ensure you are getting the best Scottish venison near you.

Your Local Venison Suppliers

Stagison Venison on saleStagison Venison is farmed at Downfield Farm in Fife, Scotland. We are proud to supply Scotland with the highest quality fresh and frozen venison products. All prepared locally on our family-run farm. We are committed to sustainable farming and the welfare of our animals is of utmost importance. After all, we believe that happy stags produce the best meat. You can buy Stagison Venison meat at our local butcher in Fife.

Wherever you are in the world, it’s important to support the farms in your community, use your local butcher’s shops and buy local produce whenever you can. If we all work together, we really can have a positive impact on our local areas and help the environment too.

If you want to know more about where to buy Scottish venison, please get in touch or call us on 01337 830237.

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People in protective clothing in the deer processing facility at Stagison venison farm in Scotland

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New jobs at new venison processing facility

A Scottish family venison processing firm this year opened its doors to a new £0.5m facility in Fife, creating new jobs and prospects for the area.

Stagison launched the new high quality, venison care and processing plant earlier this year along with a number of nutritional research programs on the benefits of deer farming and venison for consumption at Cupar in Fife.

The 3,700 sq ft facility includes high-performance deer handling systems, inspection and care pens, a new concept abattoir, adapted especially for the wellbeing of deer and production lines for meat, offal and by-products as well as a butchery and packaging plant for preparing new products for the market.

Group of deer in fluffy straw bed at Stagison deer farm in ScotlandWell known for animal care

Opened by the Prentice family, who have been farming in Fife since 2002. They are well known for their special adaptations on animal care and handling to ensure the highest quality produce from the healthiest of animals. They currently supply meats to a number of high profile UK operators throughout Scotland and England.

How the project was funded:

The project was funded with the help of the Food Processing, Marketing and Co-operation Grant Scheme jointly funded by the Scottish Government and the EU, and is set to bring over £1m in sales back to the Scottish food sector. The new centre has already brought new jobs and apprenticeships to the area and is expanding its sectors including processing, research, logistics, marketing, administration and management, as well as creating young apprenticeships locally.

It is forecast to process almost 200 tonnes of venison in the next year, but concerns lie with the need for more venison farmers to come forward with livestock to increase this supply. The Prentice’s are working with the Venison Advisory to encourage more Scottish Farmers into the high-value business of deer farming to enable the new plant to meet consumer demands. Currently, a third of the venison the UK consumes is imported, shipped in from as far afield as New Zealand.

What the owner has to say…The owners of Stagison venison farm in Scotland at their opening day

Bob Prentice, managing director of the deer farm and processing plant, and co-founder, said there was “enormous opportunities, with a huge gap in the UK market for quality, home-grown venison”.

He said: “Investing in something I am so passionate about was not a difficult choice. It’s all about making a real difference to the quality and welfare of Scottish produced meat and bringing home to the UK our own sustainable venison to reduce imports”.

“Fife is our family home. We farm, we live, we work and grow within the Fife community. We are the only processing plant in Scotland. This makes an enormous difference to the wellbeing of deer, who used to have to be shipped down to South Yorkshire for processing.”

“Fife offers the perfect location: quiet countryside surroundings for the animals, really an outstanding environment, central to the North and South of Scotland with great transport networks, the opportunity for local growth and close by to inspiring cities such as Dundee, Edinburgh and Perth.

“Our research has shown that our venison is low in fat and high in iron and consumers enjoyed the colour, appearance and flavour as well as the succulence of the meat”

What the Scottish Government are sayingDeer grazing in a lush green field at Stagsion venison farm in Scotland

Richard Lochhead, former Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs said, “Scotland’s venison sector has yet to realise its full potential and the Scottish Government is committed to developing that promise and securing a sustainable future for the industry.”

Over the past decade, retail sales of venison across Britain rose by £32 million to £43 million, being recognised as a “healthy eating” option.

Scotland’s deer farms currently only produce around 2% of the total Scottish venison output of around 3500 tonnes per year. The Scottish Government’s target is to produce an additional 1,000 tonnes within the next 3 years.

Find out more today

If you want to find out more about our deer processing facility then get in touch with us at Stagison today. Call us on 01337 830237 or email us here and we will be delighted to help. We look forward to hearing from you.

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Deer in a field

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The family and the beginnings…

Bob and Jane were born in West Lothian and brought up on their family’s farms. Bob spent a few years as a foreman on a local chicken farm before buying a milk round business and also selling eggs and vegetables. Jane trained and qualified as a chartered accountant.

After getting married they eventually bought their own small holding before moving to Fife in 2002 and buying Downfield Farm, a 150 hectare hill farm overlooking the Howe of fife. In 2008 they added more land to the farm and with the birth of their twin daughters Annie and Katie also to their family. The farm was a mixed unit of arable and grazing land, stocking suckler cows and breeding ewes.

Raw diced Venison on a slate with a mint leaf on topThen the big change to Venison Farming…

In 2011 after the birth of their son James they decided they needed a change of farming policy and in early 2012 started to research the possibility of farming deer. They met John Fletcher from the Scottish Venison Partnership in August 2012 with the intention of putting 30 hinds in a field as a trial but after John’s visit wondered where the calves would go. A meeting was then organised with Vikki Banks of Seriously Good Venison, with a view to supplying finished calves. The problem then was where the animals would be killed, with the nearest abattoir in Barnsley, Yorkshire. The decision was taken to convert a shed on the farm at Downfield into a small abattoir for the deer and this was completed in 2015.

The future…

The current developments at Downfield are to renovate the remainder of the building containing the abattoir into a boning/cutting room to allow the venison carcasses to be processed and packaged for transport anywhere, with the addition of 3 new chills for storage of in skin carcasses for the wild season, packaged and frozen meat. With the support of a Scottish Government Food Processing and Marketing Grant and Royal Bank of Scotland business banking these plans are in progress.

If you want to know more about us, what we do and our Venison Farming then please get in touch with us and we will be delighted to help.

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