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The New Zealand deer industry began in the 1960s with small exports of venison from feral deer. In 1970 the first breeding herd was established to provide a continual supply of high quality venison. By the mid 1970s, deer exports had expanded to include velvet. New Zealand is the major world supplier of venison.
New Zealand's deer herd is mostly red deer (approximately 85 percent) this reflects the originally imported wild population. The majority of the remaining national herd is Elk (also known as Wapiti). New Zealand has the worlds largest and most advanced deer farming industry with approximately half the world's deer farm population, approximately 1.7 million deer, farmed in New Zealand.
There are an estimated 3,800 farms in New Zealand with deer, farms range from stations to lifestyle properties. Often deer are farmed along with sheep and cattle as part of a diversified livestock portfolio. The majority, more than 90 percent, of New Zealand's deer industry products are exported.