The buttons are dropping!
Develvetting is just around the corner. We have covered the new regulations on deer sheds, associated facilities and velvet hygiene in our article New deer velvetting requirements so here are a few important reminders for stag welfare.
Protrusions like gate hinges, gudgeons, bolts/nails/wires should be cut flush where practical to avoid injury.
Sheds require adequate ventilation and light. Stags exposed to ambient temperatures greater than 22°C during develveting may suffer from heat stress. The risk primarily exists during develvetting, when stags are sedated with xylazine, but problems can also occur afterwards. Even when reversal is used, sedated stags may fail to seek shade. If they happen to sit down in an exposed area of the paddock, they can quickly become heat stressed which is likely to be fatal.
Early morning when it is generally cool, or later in the afternoon, when the stag has the entire evening to recover, are the best times to develvet. Ideally stags should be drafted into mobs weekly as they drop their buttons. Mob size should be relative to the facility size as most stress and potential for damage to velvet occurs through overcrowding in the yards, particularly at first yarding. Once drafted, stags should be left alone to settle. All those not being develvetted should be released. If there is only one stag to do then try and leave a companion with him.
Following velvet removal and reversal from the sedative, stags should be released to a nearby paddock with good water supply and a cool shady area for the observation/recovery period.
Check the stags within one hour after develvetting and at regular intervals thereafter. Look out for stags lying on their sides, excessive bleeding (spurting for more than 30 minutes after tourniquet removal), prolonged lack of alertness, continued wide based stance or unsteady gait, laboured breathing or bloat. If your observations can not be quickly rectified, such as by applying a tourniquet or getting the stag to his feet, then call your vet immediately.