BASS Coast Landcare organised a visit to Michael and Jill Vella’s Terramirra Park Deer Farm at Koonwarra last Wednesday as part of a focus on innovative and alternate farming uses and practices.
But events elsewhere in the state, where a man was attacked and killed by a stag deer, underscored the importance of farm safety as well, an issue that was addressed by the host Michael Vella.
“It’s rare for deer to attack but it has been known to happen and we always take the require precautions,” he said, while also expressing sympathy for those involved in the tragedy at Mohyu near Wangaratta.
The day organised by Bass Coast Landcare was already in progress as news filtered out and went ahead as planned.
Joel Geoghegan, Team Leader Sustainable Agriculture, Bass Coast Landcare Network, said the visit to the Koonwarra deer operation was part of a series of farm visits highlighting innovation, alternative uses and adaption to changing conditions.
“We’re looking at people doing different things. We’ve been to Horse Hill Olives at Anderson, Strzelecki Heritage Apples, Bass River Dairies and South Gippsland Fresh Produce – Mackas Farm at Grantville; plus several others,” said Joel.
“We’re trying to showcase innovation and diversification in our area with a series of farm walks each year.
“We’re not necessarily looking for hi-tech details it’s more about highlighting what opportunities exist and what people can do. It’s also a chance for people to link up with others who may be doing different and innovative things on their properties.
“On some occasions we have looked at the themes of climate change, not always, and carbon farming, but it’s more about diversification and innovation generally.
“Although climate change is certainly an issue for many people and down here in this part of the world there may be opportunities because this area is seen as an area of opportunity. The impact on this area is not seen as being as severe as other areas to the north.”
The Vellas welcome visitors by appointment at other times, so they were happy to have the Landcare group visit.
“We’ve got mainly Red and fallow deer here but we do have others as well,” said Michael.
“We’ve been farming deer for 40 years, 30 of them here,” he said.
The Vellas have established a strong group of regular clients for the venison they produce, mostly restaurants and fine food outlets in Melbourne.
But as long-established members of the Victorian Chinese Medicines Association, they provide a number of products to the sector, both locally and overseas.
“Deer is highly revered in Chinese philosophy and Chinese medicine,” he said.
They are interested in the felt from the antlers, the tails tendons and pizzles which are believed to provide healing and beneficial elements.
The Landcare group took an interest in all aspects of the deer farming operation.
Deer farm visit a focus on alternatives