WA's First Commercial Deer Farm
In 1977 Graham and Cynthia Morrison, started Western Australia's first commercial deer farm. Today, they're so overwhelmed with demand they can't presently meet it. With their two daughters, Kylie and Mandy Morrison - two granddaughters, Stephanie & Jennifer and a number of family friends - the three generations run the store front of Caves Road.
So how did we get here?
Kylie, Graham & Stephanie
After a BBQ one-night… Graham and his best friend decided to do a study tour of Deer farms in the Eastern states. The aim was to learn all they could before taking the next step. Two station wagons, 20 days and 12,000km later... they'd made some good contacts in what was still a very young industry in WA.
In this state, deer are and have always been classed as vermin. This means that there're very strict laws on what can and can’t be farmed. Deer were introduced in all states in the early 1800’s but failed to survive in WA and the NT in any numbers mainly due to the naturally occurring 10-80 in some of the wild plants in WA.
So, to have a deer in 1977, before you even have a licence – you needed regulation fencing which meant importing a special wire from NZ. The wire was specifically designed for deer and nowadays commonly used in many other operations. The overall height of the fence was 2.5 m with a top section angled inwards at 45 and lined with barbed wire at the top and bottom. Strainer posts needed to be 1m below ground in concrete and a double gated entry.
Once you have your fences in place… you could then fight for your licence. By late 1979 we had finally sourced our first animals from the Bannamah Wildlife Park at Dunsborough. This was 4 fallow deer. Followed by fencing, 4 Bucks and 11 does from the Cuddly Creek wildlife park in South Australia.
The arrival of the first deer generated a lot of media attention we made every paper around. It sparked a lot of interest and before we knew it we had tourist busses calling to visit, helicopters landing with reporters and princes for lunch… who would have thought! From this the small wildlife park evolved.
By 1980 Graham & Cynthia realised the potential of the wildlife park along with the need to increase stock numbers.It was time for the next step and this one involved moving away from the Wheat and sheep side of the farm. So after much searching, they purchased over 360 acres in Donnybrook which they named Glen Karaleea where they aimed to relocate the Deer Farm and expand on the wildlife park.
Their new property in Donnybrook was located 30min from Bunbury making it a great day out for families. They expanded the animal collection and went on to become a b class zoo with an animals ranging from guinea pigs to camels, ostriches and a monkey. They built an indoor BBQ area that catered to 120 people where families could plan a BBQ and not have to worry about the weather… this was a big hit with many tourist busses coming for lunches also.
and edit me. It's easy.
The park was set up on the side of a hill… From the top of the hill there were some amazing views of Donnybrook and its surrounds. Which lead Graham to his next crazy ‘idea'...
Graham thought it would be a great idea to feature the Lady William Apple at the top of an Eiffel tower like structure, so that people could climb and admire the view. The tower was a 20m structure with a Lady William Apple on top, measuring 6.5m. Transported in pieces on the back of trucks and under police escort to the top of the hill where it was erected… The Donnybrook Apple Tower still stands today.
Crazy… but it worked people loved it.
Another of his crazy ideas, was Western Game Pty Ltd. In 1984 Graham formed a company of 15 people, some farmers – and some doctors. Under Graham’s coordination, the investors purchased units in order to acquire more deer from NZ. This lead to a massive operation in which the deer went through six months quarantine in NZ and 3 months at Byford station in WA.
Over 1000 animals were flown in, in a jumbo jet in large wooden crates covered by cargo nets. Before they arrived, Graham built the facilities at the quarantine station himself, to enable the tests to be carried out. The facilities and the transportation was so successful, not one animal was lost during this total quarantine period.
While this was all taking place the deer industry was developing quietly…. BUT… We’d come to face with a dilemma… both sides had gotten too big. We were putting over 46,000 people through the gates at Glen Karaleea each year while our deer herd had increased to a point where we were ready to start processing. We wanted to concentrate on fully developing the deer industry but on the other hand… didn’t want to close down the deer park, a valuable part of the economy.
Hence the decision was made… this time to sell the deer park at Glen Karaleea and purchase a new property which we named “Lake Kitenui” in the Margaret River area in 1990. With 1.5km of Caves Road frontage, it was flat and well suited for deer.
At this same time, Graham purchased Western Game. Pty Ltd. From the investors.
Conscious of the Margaret River regions fast developing reputation for excellence, significant measures were taken right from the beginning to ensure the quality of the product… Right from the start we have been involved with our product from paddock to plate. We’ve all spent time out in the abattoir be it helping construct some new handling yards or on packing days to get our product exactly how we wanted it… ensuring that we were putting only quality product into each bag.
In 1992, Quality Assurance programs for the deer industry were still six years away, but MRV implemented its own rigorous program. In years to follow we added our own boning room on our farm to continuing to monitor the quality of our product with all our stock now being slaughtered at DBC in Bunbury, or Wellard Meats at Beufort River.
From 1992-1999, Venison was sold from a small store behind the family home until the year 2000. On Easter that year, the store front opened up on Caves Road.
Today, with the support of our amazing customers, we're so overwhelmed with demand we can't presently meet it. Every animal processed during the week is sold the following week. From paddock to plate, nothing goes to waste.