Hard working couple take on Deer Velvet business challenge

Hard-working Couple Take on Velvet Challenge

A young Hawke’s Bay couple have bought a 25-year-old deer velvet business – they spoke to Kate Taylor about their growing business portfolio.

In just seven years, Josh and Penny Buckman have graduated university and built up enough capital to buy 82 hectares near Hastings and a deer velvet business, not to mention starting a family. They are busy people who wouldn’t have it any other way and are proud of their achievements so far.

“Josh is always up at midnight… thinking, planning. He’s an ideas man. He’s always working through ideas and scenarios and things we can do,” Penny says.

She is in charge of the daily running of Gevir Premium Deer Velvet, which they bought from another Hawke’s Bay couple earlier this year. She is also in charge of three-year-old George, 3, and 11-month-old Anna-Louise. Josh works on contract for Marsh corporate and business insurance and oversees the farm and a nearby lease block. The couple also have shares in other businesses.

After growing up on sheep, beef and deer and cropping farms in Manawatu and Central Hawke’s Bay, Josh was a Smedley cadet at Tikokino in 2003/2004 but ruled out a full-time farming career after injuring his shoulder playing rugby. He has a famous rugby brother in the Hawke’s Bay Magpies and Highlanders Super15 teams, Richard “Baracuda” Buckman. Josh was the top academic cadet from his year so with farming and rugby out of the question, he took up a Smedley scholarship to do an agricultural commerce degree at Lincoln University.

While in Canterbury he met Penny, who grew up on a Hastings orchard and was at teachers’ college in Christchurch. They both graduated in 2008 and went to the King Country, where Josh worked for FMG in Te Kuiti and Penny taught at Aria School. Josh was share trading and working on several business plans to build up the couple’s cash flow to buy land.

“It had always been in our minds to return to Hawke’s Bay to start a family,” says Penny.

They bought 56ha of bare land on Mutiny Rd, south of Hastings, in April 2011.

“We’ve slowly built up equity through development – drainage, irrigation and subdivision – in a bid to use that equity to diversify,” says Josh. They have since bought another adjoining 26ha, including their house, woolshed and yards

The Buckmans’ 82ha property is mixed cropping and lamb finishing. The crops are grown on contract – peas and sweet corn to McCain’s, maize and barley to H&T Agronomics and onions and squash to John Bostock.
Ad Feedback

“Once the crops are harvested the whole place is re-sown in moata and we finish lambs for the winter,” says Josh.

They buy in lambs at 30-32kg and send them to Fresh Meats in Napier between May and October at about 44kg (20kg carcass weight). The lambs are traditional romney which “get to heavier weights easily with their big frames” and finish quickly on the new moata grass.

“We have finished up to 4500 lambs on here in a season. We’re double-cropping now, so this year we will finish 2500 on here plus another 2500 on a lease block about 10 minutes away, which we have in a joint venture with another former Smedley cadet, Te Whare Tihema, leasing his family land at Roy’s Hill,” Josh says.

“We keep everything simple… good systems, good contractors, good stock agent… the key is having good support people, including our parents.

Relationships are important to the Buckmans. They bought the two sections of their property from Dennis and Rose McKenzie, who have retired locally.

“They have been good to us,” says Penny.

The knowledge and experience of Gevir’s previous owners has also been welcome.

Gevir Premium Deer Velvet was started by Takapau deer farmers Clint and Shelley Thomsen in 1990. Gevir (pronounced gee-va) is Danish for antler.

“We’re learning more and more about velvet as we go,” says Penny.

“It is the only renewable source of collagen and glucosamine. It is such a good product. The testimonials are amazing and we’ve noticed in ourselves we’re not getting winter sick like we used to,” she says.

“When we started talking about buying the business, we bought some of the product from one of the retail outlets as part of our due diligence process. I noticed it working on the aches from my old shoulder injury straight away,” adds Josh. Both PGG Wrightson and Farmlands stock the product at the moment, as well as the online sales through the website.

“We’re going through a rebranding exercise at the moment looking to modernise the packaging and marketing, update the story to give it a wider range. There is huge potential for this already-strong business. We want to grow it and diversify it and get it humming along internationally.”

Changes will take place before the end of the year and will coincide with the new velvet harvest.

Unlike the Thomsens, Josh and Penny don’t have a deer farm, but have built up great relationships with their new velvet suppliers.

“We’re aligning ourselves with some of New Zealand’s best deer farmers who are right here in Hawke’s Bay. Traceability from their gate to the end product will be part of the new story – international buyers can hop online and see the farm their velvet came from.”

The couple have been working with traditional Chinese medical practitioner Heiko Lade and will be extending the product range..

“It’s about educating people about the good points of velvet as well as fixing the misconception that it is an aphrodisiac. Some people also think velvet harvest kills deer, which it doesn’t,” he says.

– Stuff

Share This Blog