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The Elk and Wapiti Society of New Zealand as part of its constitution has a mandate to investigate issues for the benefit of its members.  The area of animal health has been a significant focus. In the past this has been funded out of member’s subs. In recent years a Research Auction held at our annual Velvet and Hard Antler Competition has added to the pool. There are a range of diseases and conditions that affect farmed deer in New Zealand.


Parasitism is the most significant of these diseases. Lungworm, Gastrointestinal worms (principally Ostertagia – type) and the external parasiteTicks are the three most important in the farmed environment.  There are some important animal health issues relating to parasites when farming Elk and Wapiti. A survey of members in 2008 prompted some work investigating the cause of Fading Elk Syndrome. We were able to show the cause was gastrointestinal parasites (Ostertagia) and a preventative programme needs to be put in place with an effective drench. 


The follow on from this initial study saw the society lead the way evaluating drench efficacy in deer and exposing alarmingly high levels of drench resistance within the deer industry in New Zealand.  While this was of benefit to members it has ramifications for the whole industry as resistance to Moxidectin is likely to be widespread throughout New Zealand  The use of Pour On in deer is not advised.


Wapiti Society members have been actively involved in trial work to develop a deer specific product that is effective, safe and has a practical withholding time. Co-funded by New Zealand manufacturer Nexan and Deer Industry New Zealand this new drench, Cervidae OralTM was officially registered in July 2021. It is an oral triple combination drench formulated specifically for deer with a 28 day withholding time.


The formulation of active ingredients in this drench optimizes the delay in onset of drench resistance. However this is based on judicious use of the product. At any one time less than 10% of the parasite population are in the animal on a deer farm. Relying on drench for parasite control is therefore very much “ambulance at the bottom of the cliff approach”

Best practice is to use as many management tools as possible to reduce the parasite challenge to your deer.

  • Grazing management – Nutrition/Rotation/Cross Grazing/Residual covers

  • Soil & Pasture management - Maintain biologically healthy soils/Alternative forages/Crops/Dung Beetles

  • Animal management – Natural immunity/Pre-rut v’s post-rut weaning/Refugia/Quarantine drenching/Genetics – CARLA

Additionally in 2021 we are now starting to use a special parasite control tool in the form of "Carla" To read all you need on Carla click here


Meat Withholding times for drench has become a major issue for farmed deer as most drenches in New Zealand are not registered for use in deer and have a default 91day withholding period. We have undertaken drug residue trials with moxidectin injection (Cydectin) due to its widespread use despite not being registered for use in deer in New Zealand Findings:- Moxidectin injection is safe to use on deer 49days from slaughter.In recent years considerable effort has been dedicated to investigating parasites in deer and the result provides best practice based on current knowledge.


Copper deficiency, Ryegrass Staggers and Facial Eczema affect all deer but it would appear Elk and Wapiti are more susceptible than other breeds.

Facial Eczema  is confined to areas of the North Island where the causative spore counts become high during the January to May period. For more information see the Deer NZ Facial Eczema information page.


Some of the other animal health conditions of deer farming generally include Tuberculosis, Johnes disease, Leptospirosis, Yersinia and Fusiformis


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