Animals adapt slowly to a change in diet from pasture to some other feed types i.e. from grass to lucerne or brassicas. The microbes in the rumen have to change to use the new feed and this takes time, (2-3 weeks before the animal can achieve maximum intake). Managing this transition badly can result in low or no animal growth for the period. For best results introduce animals to the diet gradually giving stock time to adjust to the new diet by allowing access to pasture and silage/hay for the first few days. Monitor animals closely as they are introduced to new feed.
To maximise animal performance avoid short periods on different feeds ie once they are introduced to the crop make sure they can stay there for a reasonable period. Hinds and calves can be introduced to a crop prior to weaning with calves then weaned back on to crop.
Ensure the crop is mature before introducing the deer and allow access to grass, silage or hay.
There is no research data available for the optimal feeding system for deer on fodder beet. The nutrient composition of fodder beet indicates that it should be supplemented about 50% with hay/silage or pasture to balance the diet. Ideally the silage or hay should be fed to animals before they access the fodder beet. The protein content of the fodder beet is low (Crude protein = 10%) so protein can become limiting. However management strategies such as the importance of the age of animal or length of time on a fodder beet crop are not well understood. Anecdotally farmers seem to be using much less supplement and not losing animals although after about 60 days stock can lose condition quickly.
Small amounts of grain fed with grass require little introduction as deer will adapt readily. If larger amounts are required (>25% of the diet) then adjustment is required, starting with a small amount per animal and gradually increasing the amount over a week to 10 days.
There is growing interest in growing lucerne for deer in summer dry regions. Lucerne is a protein rich source of feed and it retains its high quality for much longer than grass. Roughage (hay or straw) and salt both need to be provided when grazing lucerne to make sure there are no health issues. Read the October 2011 Deer Industry News article on how deer farmers are using Lucerne in their production systems here >>
Water consumption by deer can vary depending on species, body weight, age, sex, climatic conditions, type of diet and feed intake. They can have significantly increased water requirement at certain times ie:
- adult stags during the rut and for the first day or 2 post velvetting
- lactating hinds
- weaned deer (for up to 10 day post weaning)
- all deer during periods of hot, dry weather
- all deer on dry feed such as hay and concentrates
- consider providing water in troughs where possible to maintain a consistent supply and to avoid damage to waterways.
Indicative water requirements of deer
|Water requirement||Forage diet* up to 30%DM||
|Weaners (up to 85 kg LW)||0.5 – 1.5 L/day||1.5 – 2.5 L/day|
|Lactating hinds (100 – 120 kg LW)||5.5 – 7.0 L/day||8.0 – 10.0 L/day|
|Hinds (dry, 100 – 120 kg LW)||1.5 – 2.0 L/day||3.0 – 4.0 L/day|
|Stags (180 – 250 kg LW)||3.0 – 4.0 L/day||
6.0 – 7.0 L/day
*Pasture, silage or brassica crop