Red deer herders on the shore

The red deer industry in Quebec is struggling to recover from the disruption of activities at the Cerfs de Boileau farm located in Grenville-sur-la-Rouge in the Laurentians, whose herd was culled in its entirety in 2018 due to chronic wasting disease (CWD). ) in deer. The impacts of this crisis are still being felt and are leading many creators to give up their production.

Even Quebec Red Deer Association president Gaétan Lehoux wonders what he will do with his 200 breeding females in the near future. The one who previously sold his animals to Cerfs de Boileau now finds himself with no customers and no real possibilities, he says, of finding new buyers.

“The damage is done; we can’t go back any longer”, says the producer from Saint-Elzéar, in Chaudière-Appalaches, assuring that the “bad press” and the The “misinformation” surrounding meat contamination would still discourage restaurant owners who dare not buy it locally, even if no studies prove the disease is communicable to humans.

“Our association has 25 active members and about ten are thinking about quitting or have made the decision to quit,” explains Mr. Lehoux. Although most of these producers do not make a living from deer farming alone, the situation is worrying, even catastrophic for the Quebec industry, he underlines, stating that “you can never go back”.

Farms still in quarantine

To date, Cerfs de Boileau is still awaiting indications from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency on the need for decontamination measures on their land. Deer-related exploration activities are frozen and will certainly not resume, predicts director Denis Ferrer.

In 2018, nine breeding farms that sourced animals from Cerfs de Boileau were quarantined by the Agency. Restrictions on the sale of animals remain in effect today for eight of them.

“I just bought a Cerfs de Boileau breeding male. Finally, he was not even contaminated and I am still in quarantine”, laments Jean-François Théroux, producer of Lanoraie in Lanaudière. The one who has been breeding since 2008 still has a herd of 140 heads that he can only sell to the slaughterhouse. As the option is not very profitable and the market does not appear to be on the verge of a recovery, he has decided to get rid of his animals. “I mainly specialize in commercial hay for export. Deer are a minor issue, but they still hurt a lot. I’ll have to think of another plan B.”

For her part, Sylvie Van Dersmissen, owner of 40 breeding females in Saint-Charles-sur-le-Richelieu, in Montérégie, is lucky. She recently found a butcher as a new buyer for her animals. But the road to get there was arduous. In 2018, she lost her only client when her farm wasn’t even part of the quarantine lot. “He owned a restaurant. The deer was her biggest seller. When the disease was detected, he decided to remove this meat from his menu. His idea was invented, he no longer wanted to serve his customers,” says the creator.

According to Mario Giguère, a breeder at Thetford Mines in Chaudière-Appalaches, the situation is not going to improve. The $30,000 shortfall, among other things caused by the sluggish market and the loss of 10 big customers, he says, will have gotten the better of his output. “I wanted to end my days raising deer. I finally decided to stop in November”, indicates the one whose herd went from almost 300 animals to 200 in a year and a half.

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