Impact of high country deer farming
The Innovative Farming Systems team is looking at the impact farmed deer have on the high country environment of the South Island of New Zealand.
Little is known about the effect deer farming has on this fragile environment, which includes tussock grassland and scrub along with normal pasture grass and legume species. Understanding the way the animals graze the landscape may also provide some clues to increasing productivity.
Two sites are being used for research, one at Te Anau, near Fiordland, and the other in South Canterbury. The topography makes observation by traditional methods difficult, so deer have been fitted with GPS tracking collars. Paddock maps created using satellite imagery and aerial photography, showing vegetation areas, are used to track hind movements.
At this stage the team is gaining some baseline data for the project by identifying patterns. So far it has been shown that hinds preferentially graze pasture areas, tending to use the tussock areas only during the calving period.
Continual monitoring will enable scientists to see whether deer activity changes the vegetation of the area over time and whether farm management practices should be adapted to minimise impact.