The importance of deer nutrition
It has been shown that post-rut nutrition influences future velvet weight. As nutritional requirements peak immediately after the roar and during antler growth, maximum velvet weights will not be achieved if stags are not fed well during that time.
During the spring when stags are casting their hard antler buttons they should be examined weekly and subdivided into future velveting mobs. As it takes 60 days from the time the button drops until harvesting, it is best to separate them early. If large mobs of stags are left together and sorted out only at the time of develveting, there is considerable risk of damage to the velvet.
The objective is to grow them at a maximum to achieve the desired average body weight at mating (85 kg at 15 months of age). Maximum feed allowance must therefore be given right throughout the period. In dry summers, it may be necessary to supplement yearlings to achieve satisfactory mating weights.
During a hind's second winter, it is desirable to feed at residual DM of not less than 1200 kg/ha. During the spring, the objective is to allow the first calving hind to increase growth as well as to provide for the foetus. Care must be taken to prevent over-fatness so to avoid fawning/calving problems.
Adult hinds need to at least maintain bodyweight during lactation. This is also important during the rut.
Once mated, hinds need to maintain their body weight during the winter unless they are in poor condition. Alternatively, if hinds are in very good condition in early winter, it is satisfactory for them to drop a few kilograms and allow them a maintenance ration only to reduce the likelihood of a feed deficit. As spring approaches, body weight can increase again with increasing pasture availability. It must however be emphasised that over-fatness must be avoided leading up to calving.
To prevent over-fatness, it is necessary to continue to graze down to a low residual DM well into October, allowing an increase in feed intake only during the last part of October and into November prior to calving.
For further nutritional information and advice, please contact Totally Vets.