Deer farmers are dropping hind numbers and turning towards sheep farming because of falling venison returns.
Venison prices have slipped to $7.40/kg for an AP stag, compared to the $10/kg two years ago.
The blight of Covid-19 has been tough on external markets such as the United States, with some restaurants closing down permanently and supply chains suffering shipping delays.
Deer Industry New Zealand was excited about the gradual reopening of European markets as vaccination rates increase, but admitted to fears of order backlogs, delivery delays and increasing transport costs.
Deer farmers are reacting by downsizing herds to make the most of lamb prices that have risen to $9/kg recently.
Chairman of New Zealand Deer Farmers Association's Canterbury and West Coast branch Russell Rudd planned to cut 120 hinds from his herd of 360 deer at Mairaki Downs, Fernside.
He said deer farmers were doing a lot of thinking as prices were low and costs continued to increase.
Many were shifting into velvet farming or increasing their sheep flocks.
Rudd said that both venison and lamb were high-end products, so farmers couldn't understand the price difference.
The European market usually peaks around now, and with venison prices at $7.40/kg, it will drop to $5 or $6/kg, which is disappointing compared to lamb prices, he added.
Most deer farmers have other stock as well, so it's not hard to fluctuate between the two.
Rudd said DINZ was pinning its hopes on adjusting from high-end restaurants to supermarkets, and farmers would watch closely to see whether this was a viable option.