Lame Stags – is there a new condition affecting our industry?

Written by Andrew Bates Vetlife Scientific 

This year has been tough for deer farmers, with uncertainties over continued access to overseas export markets, mixed pricing messages and an increasingly fragmented market. Vetlife recognises the challenges facing its farming clients and is committed to supporting animal agriculture in New Zealand for the long haul. Part of this undertaking includes continuing to invest in relevant, practical on-farm research through Vetlife Scientific Ltd, headed by Andrew Bates. In the following article, Andrew describes a new initiative to investigate reports of a severe and difficult-to-treat form of lameness in adult stags. 


Over the last 12–24 months, a number of deer farmers have reported severe and hard-to-treat cases of lameness in their adult stags. Despite a big impact on some farms, not much is known about this condition, and farmers have seen a range of symptoms in affected stags, including swollen feet and pasterns, weight loss, overgrowth of the toes and deformity of the feet.  Cases appear to be slow to recover and treatment has been challenging.    


On the back of concern raised by farming members of Deer Industry New Zealand, Vetlife Scientific Ltd has been approached to conduct a preliminary investigation of this issue.  We are working with DINZ, Massey University and deer farmers from across the country to identify the extent of the issue and to discover whether there are any common threads between cases and farms.  If you velvet your deer, Vetlife has been contacting you to ask a few questions and to potentially enrol you for a follow-up visit from your local deer veterinarian in order to fill in a brief survey. The survey is entirely voluntary and free for farmers, and all findings will be shared with the industry to try and get a better handle on this condition.