The possibility of farming deer and goats as alternatives to other forms of ruminant livestock for meat production in the UK has been investigated only relatively recently. The collaborative research between the Rowett Research Institute and the Hill Farming Research Organisation on red deer (Cervus elaphus) was initiated in 1970 and serious consideration of goats as a source of meat has only taken place in the last 5 years. Consequently there is considerably more research information on the red deer than the goat and this is reflected in the length of the discussion on each species in this paper. Moreover the number of red deer being farmed commercially in the UK, estimated to be approximately 7000 animals, is currently greater than the number of goats being reared for meat production. Goat meat is mainly a by-product of the production of milk.
Both species have the attributes of producing a lean carcass (5-10% fat), which is acceptable to the consumer, and of having the capability of being farmed over the whole spectrum of hill, upland and lowland swards. Systems of management are firstly described, followed by a discussion of the biological potential that could be exploited by further research and by a consideration of marketing and the economics of current production systems.