• Grant Support for Wild Deer Management and Venison Supply

    There is common agreement about the need to manage wild deer populations. There is also a common desire to see more wild venison presented for sale in local shops and catering outlets. The “East of England Wild Venison Project” has been set up to support and incentivise those working in deer management and the venison supply chain to achieve a sustainable cull and to ensure good quality venison reaches the customer. This is in addition to the support provided by Woodland Improvement Grants managed by the Forestry Commission, which is able to support high seat purchases, ride management and deer management time.

    The “East of England Wild Venison Project” aims to develop the wild venison supply chain through a suite of activities that will support the delivery of sustainable land and woodland management, simultaneously improving deer management, and the collection, storage, processing and distribution facilities for the venison generated. The project is supported by the East of England Development Agency (EEDA), funded by the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) and the Forestry Commission, and managed by the Deer Initiative. The East of England in this case is defined as the counties of Essex, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridge, Suffolk and Norfolk.

    The project is made up of three major components. The first of these consists of facilitation, advice and training. The facilitation is to engage with the beneficiaries in the region, providing impartial support at the time of application for infrastructure. Advice could be in terms of deer management and cull planning. Training may be necessary in many different aspects along the required chain of activities from animal to plate; stalker skills and knowledge (DSC L1/L2, and all aspects of the Deer Initiative’s “Best Practice Guide”), food and hygiene standards, and marketing plans (using the resources of Landskills East). The second component is capital investment; to provide the resource of up to 50% matched RDPE funding for infrastructure to enable culling, the clean extraction of carcasses (e.g. extraction equipment), the provision to hold carcasses in good condition (chillers), where applicable the resources to process into prime cuts or processed products (butchering and packing equipment), and possibly the ability to deliver to final markets in chilled vehicles. The final component is to provide grant support to those who wish to develop their own market through, for example, website design, branding and innovative marketing materials.

    The Wild Venison Project is the outcome of a Deer Initiative commissioned feasibility study from 2008-9 that sought to discover whether there were sufficient producers in the region who would be willing and able to develop their infrastructure to meet the demand. One of the recommendations was that it should not impose a new structure on the supply chain, but work constructively with existing people and organisations. That is, to expand and improve the existing operations and to bring new people into the process by supporting the establishment of new facilities where they are lacking. The feasibility study also revealed that the biggest failure in the current system seems to be in the carcase supply side of the chain (rather than the venison marketing side) so the initial focus is directed toward improvements in that area.

    The Project has been running since June 2010 and there are already eight applications jointly receiving £82K in grant support, up and running in the region with many more coming through the approval pipeline. In total the Project has £800,000 available to be used in conjunction with match funding from applicants until the end of 2013. The current active projects show a range in terms of size and approach; from relatively large projects (with a total size of between £60K and £95K) where regional or county sized operations have either expanded or invested in brand new facilities, to much smaller initiatives where individual stalkers have, for example, converted garage space with the addition of a chiller and a small preparation area (costing as little as £2K).

    In return for this support applicants must show some ‘additionality’ (doing more or better quality work than prior to the grant) and improvements in at least some of the following list of Project objectives:

    • Improving and stimulating the supply of wild venison to local markets
    • Improving wild deer management
    • Improving the Woodland SSSIs (or other wildlife designations) in the region
    • Reducing the number of road accidents associated with wild deer
    • Supporting landowners in the region to improve their agricultural yields through improved land management

    Those interested in applying for support should contact:

    Graham Riminton,
    Venison Project Officer,
    The Deer Initiative,
    C/O Woodfuels East,
    Forestry Commission,
    Santon Downham,
    IP27 0TJ.
    ‘Phone: 07966 966390.
    Email: vpoeastern@thedeerinitiative.co.uk
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