Deer research

The Deer Research Group conducts high-quality research to advance scientific knowledge of the biology and farming of deer. Interdisciplinary projects draw on veterinary, animal and agricultural science and extension expertise from across the university. We transfer technology and research findings to farmers and conduct on-farm investigation of health and production problems to enhance productivity. We work closely with deer industry organisations and the Veterinary Association Deer Special Interest Group.

Our expertise


We are evaluating the mechanism and efficiency of feedstuff digestion. We are also investigating the role of trace elements and minerals in deer production, and methods of control and prevention of deficiency-mediated disease and loss of production. We are studying methane production with reference to nutritional factors, physiology and microbial populations in a comparative species context.

Health and welfare

We are evaluating analgesia best practice for removal of the pedicle and velvet antler, and studying factors contributing to the death of stags under xylazine sedation for antler removal. We are also studying parasite control and prevention, with special reference to the role of plant secondary compounds.

Forage species and management

We are evaluating forage species for growth and production to produce quality venison for market needs. This includes evaluation of the establishment, management, nutritive value and persistence of alternative pasture species, and impacts of forage species on health and well-being.


We are studying the epidemiology and control of newly diagnosed diseases, such as haemolytic disease associated with erythrocytic inclusion bodies, bacterial infections such as Bartonella spp, and eye lesions associated with cervine herpes virus in farmed herds. We are doing epidemiological study of leptospirosis and deer Johne’s disease to develop industry management strategies.

For more information about our research activity, click on individual researchers' names below.


  • Kate Griffiths

    Kate Griffiths

    Lecturer in Pastoral Livestock HealthSVS - Production Animal Health


Principal Researchers

Kate Griffiths
Peter Wilson
Cord Heuer
Bill Pomroy
Laryssa Howe
Julie Collins-Emmerson

Other University personnel involved in recent and/or present deer research

Craig Johnson
Kevin Stafford
David Mellor
Peter Kemp
Alan Murray
Jackie Benschop

Facilities – Deer Research Unit

Wintering 100 breeding hinds (red deer ), facilities include recently constructed yards and a new deer shed for hosting research.  Currently research topics include evaluating different pasture cultivars and investigating the effects of velvet removal. It is also used as a teaching unit for Massey University veterinary students.

Deer Research Unit>

Key Contact

  • Kate Griffiths

    Kate Griffiths

    Lecturer in Pastoral Livestock HealthSVS - Production Animal Health


A six-year epidemiological study of Deer Johne's Disease was aimed at understanding the major risk factors for the expression of disease, to enable management recommendations for deer farmers. A comprehensive series of projects identified a wide range of aspects of this disease, including:

  • The farm and animal infection 
  • Disease prevalence and incidence
  • Infection rate at deer in slaughter
  • The prediction of infection by mesenteric lymph node characteristics at slaughter
  • The efficiency of meat inspectors in detecting JD-like lesions
  • The efficacy of vaccination in young deer
  • Effect of vaccination of cross-reactivity with the TB test
  • Validation of the Paralisa test in low clinical disease incidence deer herds

Further multi-species studies have shown presence of MAP in a range of wildlife species, strain type distribution, evaluated the role of sheep in reducing the risk of clinical disease in deer, modelled the spread of disease between farms by movement of livestock and developed a model for evaluating the role of various potential control measures for deer herds.

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