The Irish Deer Farming industry comprised four semi-commercial deer farms in 1982. In that year the Commission of the European Community provided IR £360,000 to examine ways and means of rejuvenating and maintaining economic activity in rural areas; to examine the viability of alternative farm enterprises both from the husbandry/ management and economic points of view and their suitability to Irish conditions. B J Wall, who was a member of the Executive Board overseeing this project, was twice sent to the UK to examine deer farming. Information was also gathered from New Zealand.




Since 1982 the number of deer farmers has grown from four to 556 and the number of deer from 280 in 1982 to 48,000. Virtually all of the foundation breeding stock for the National Herd was purchased and imported from the UK. B J Wall was sent to Scotland to organise the first purchase and importation in 1984, followed in 1988 by the first airborne importation of Fallow deer from Denmark and in 1991 the first airborne importation of breeding stock, male and female, from New Zealand. Small numbers of breeding stock captured from State Forests were used in the early years of the industry.



Irish Deer Farmers Association

The Irish Deer Farmers Association was formed in June 1985 for the purpose of co-ordinating the development of the industry, co-ordinating the work of all interested parties and state organisations to provide advice and support of a technical and practical nature to deer farmers and intending deer farmers and to promote and develop a marketing strategy for farmed venison.



Some Achievements of the IDFA

- Achieved recognition and acceptance of deer farming as a viable farm enterprise by the wider farming community in Ireland and by Government and its agencies and organised the importation of quality attested breeding stock from the UK, Denmark and New Zealand and negotiated and agreed the importation protocols with the Irish Government.

- Achieved EU grant aid for Irish Deer Farmers on breeding stock, fencing and housing and handling facilities in 1990 and again in October 1994 after protracted negotiations between the IDFA and government.

- Agreed a special arrangement with the Irish revenue Commissioners (tax authorities) on the level of VAT (Value Added Tax) repayment to farmers not registered for VAT (85% of Irish farmers are not registered for VAT).

- Secured the appointment of specialist advisers in deer farming in every region of the country by the state farm advisory service (Teagasc) and organised four major marketing surveys on venison marketing. Organised information stands including five displays of deer at major agricultural shows and events around the country. It has also organised and continued to organise venison cookery demonstrations and sampling at all major feed farms and similar such events.

- The IDFA has engaged in protracted negotiations with the Irish Government on the implementation of a TB eradication scheme for deer. The IDFA are very pleased that, in September 1994, the Irish Government banned by law the velveting of stags except in exceptional circumstances on veterinary advice. This brings us into line with most of Western Europe and restores our harmonious relationship with animal welfare organisations.

- From 1994 - 1998 the IDFA, in partnership with FEDFA, organised and co-hosted the Second World Deer Farming Congress at the University of Limerick, Ireland.




In 1998 IDFA in conjunction with two venison co-ops, one in southern Ireland and one in Northern Ireland, the Oriel producer group and Teagasc (State Advisory Board) set up the Venison Industry Board (VIB) to co-ordinate all the activities of the Deer Industry on the island of Ireland, so as to attract EU and state funds to employ full-time professional staff, including a full-time industry manager whose principal brief is marketing. In 1998, 700 - 800 tonnes of venison was produced for export. 95% of all Irish venison is exported.



1998 - 1999

Ireland has gone through two difficult years for deer farmers. After a couple of very promising years, the market suddenly collapsed and it appeared that the only sale for venison was through game dealers and the prices offered were very poor. Some farmers were so disheartened that they gave up deer farming altogether. Also, one of the main abattoirs for deer in Ireland, AIBP in Rathkeale, announced that they were giving up this business and alternative arrangements would have to be made.

On a more positive note, the Venison Industry Board was set up as a marketing body to bring together the various bodies representing deer farmers and it has had funding from various bodies. Two new abattoirs have been set up, one for Fallow deer and one for Red deer, and there seems to be some improvement imminent in the market.




Irish Deer Farmers Association (IDFA)

c/o Venison Industry Ltd.

122 Consession Road



Co. Down. BT35 9JF


Tel/fax: +(44) (0) 2830 861120