On a drizzly day in early December, guests including Taupo Major, David Trewavas and councillors, along with local MP Louise Upston, gathered to celebrate the opening of Pāmu’s Deer Milking farm at Aratiatia Station; situated on the outskirts of Taupo on Tukairangi Road.
Pāmu has been working alongside the McIntyre family on their Benio Farm in Southland since 2016, milking red deer with some success. In 2020, Pāmu decided to expand its deer milking operations with the construction of the first custom designed and built Deer Milking parlour at Aratiatia Station.
Farm manager Mason Jones says working with the McIntyre’s has been indispensable, as Pāmu developed its deer milking operation.
“Working alongside the McIntyre’s has been incredibly valuable as they’ve passed on their knowledge after Benio’s successful six seasons that has seen the expansion of Deer Milk into local food service markets and, more recently, international markets such as Australia, South Korea and Vietnam,” says Mason.
Mason says with the industry still in its infancy, finding dairy hinds suitable to habituate to the special milking parlours has been difficult.
“Pairing up with AgResearch’s deer guru’s Dr Geoff Asher and Dr Jamie Ward, we determined the most ideal hinds for the milking operation in Taupo were red deer from our stud located near Hokitika on the South Islands West Coast.
Due to the unique nature of hinds at fawning, there is no human intervention or disturbance while fawns are young, says Mason.
“Milking operations initially began this year in a share milking capacity and continued on when weaning would typically occur naturally in the wild. In the first season at Aratiatia, the team were surprised at how quickly the hinds habituated to the routine of milking and the daily yields given the seemingly small udder."
Mason Jones has a background in farming and has been working with large commercial deer and on livestock farms in Rangitaiki and Te Anau basin.
He says his passion for deer, and interest in on farm innovation, led him to take up the challenge of leading the small team on Aratiatia for its inaugural season.
“The first season wasn’t without its challenges, with construction still being completed when we began milking and only receiving MPI sign off to begin operations just in time for weaning. But we are up and running now and it is good to be able to show to the community what we are doing here in Taupo,” Mason says.
Pāmu Deer Milk is a natural super milk of concentrated nutrition. It has more than double the milk solids of regular cow’s milk and higher protein and fat content than any other ruminant commonly milked New Zealand.
Pāmu Deer Milk has application in food, cosmetics and as a nutritional supplement. Pāmu has deer milk sales contracts with companies in Korea and Vietnam and product is available direct to consumers here in New Zealand. Together with Massey University and High Value Nutrition, Pāmu are also investigating the benefits of deer milk in relation to healthy ageing.