A major limitation to deer production from pasture is the imbalance between the seasonal forage supply and the animal demand that occurs due to the late spring calving of deer compared to sheep and cattle. Ryegrass/white clover pastures produce high quality feed in spring, with peak production in late spring, followed by reduced summer growth and a decline in quality. The addition of specialist pastures and crops can be used in the farm system to provide high quality feed at appropriate times of the year.
The predominant feed source for deer is permanent pasture (ryegrass/white clover). Winter or summer crops (swedes, rape, turnips and fodder beet), lucerne, silage or barley are used to improve the performance at different times of the year.
Seasonal pasture curves and pasture quality vary widely throughout New Zealand.
Research has shown that animal performance is affected by pasture quality.
Typical ME values of NZ feeds
|High quality||Spring pasture (short)||12.0 MJME/kgDM|
|Medium quality||Pasture silage||9.0|
|Low quality||Wheat straw||7.0|
|Aged meadow hay||7.0|
Feed budgeting (feed planning)
Understanding the interaction between feed supply and animal requirements at different times of the year is critical in improving animal productivity and farm profitability.
The aim of feed planning is to relate the feed resource on farm to the animal needs during the year. It will identify feed shortages in advance which mean options such as applying nitrogen, reducing stock numbers, cropping or purchasing supplements can be taken. Some of these changes may occur over more than one season. Feed planning will also identify feed surpluses in good seasons.
Good feed planning means better use of the available pastures and greater deer productivity.
The following information needs to be calculated when performing a feed budget:
Average winter length
Days where pasture growth drops below stock demand. Eg.North Auckland 80 days, Waikato 100 days, South Otago 120+ days
Average winter growth rates
18kg DM/Ha in the North to 5 in the South
Effective grazing area
Winter stocking rates
Classes and numbers (including other stock) plus any winter sales policy
Supplements available (and an estimate of feed quality)
Hay, silage etc and including crops grown or possible grazing off
Opening pasture cover
This can only be an estimate as assessment may take place at a date widely different from the suggested May 1 start date. The best estimate can be gained from supporting information, such as previous winter growth rates for weaners and slaughter detail of yearlings killed. Adapt the figures below to suit your own area:
- 2000kg DM/Ha for high performance properties
- 1700kg DM/Ha for moderate performance properties
- 1300kg DM/Ha for poorer performance properties
Nitrogen or N based fertiliser
The time of application and expected growth rates. Nitrogen will not grow grass if applied at the wrong time, when temperature or moisture is limiting.
Pasture and Feed utilisation
Varies from 85% on intensive operations to 65% on extensive situations
- Planning the winter feed
- Managing spring feed surplus
- Fawning and lactation
- Weaning decision
Integrated grazing management where either sheep or cattle are grazed inside the deer fence is being used increasingly to manage pasture quality, control weeds such as ragwort, clean up calving paddocks, and manage intestinal parasite and facial eczema problems through provision of clean pastures. This can significantly increase the profitability of the operation. For example, a mob of stags, cows or ewes could be used to control summer pastures to regain quality in preparation for weaned calves in early autumn.
Disease risks from other stock include Johne’s disease, Malignant catarrhal fever (MCF), TB and brucellosis. These risks can be managed by using appropriate stock types and ages and avoiding those that increase risks. Other diseases such as internal parasites are relatively deer specific and cross contamination in unlikely unless there is a very severe challenge.
Successful integrated grazing requires a good understanding of both pasture management and animal requirements.
Deer Stock Units Equivalents According to Age,Sex and Breed
|Hind||Stag||Hind||Stag||Hind||Stag||Hinds||Velvetting Stags||Breeding Stags|
|Hybrid (Red x Wapiti)||Same As European type|
To download a spreadsheet to calculate your total stock units, click here >>
Table 1.1: Stock Unit Conversion Rate ( MAF Farm monitoring Report 2007)
|Pre 2004/05||2004/05 and beyond|
|Stock class||(stock unit)||(stock unit)|
|R3yr plus stags||2.1||3.0|