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Deer Supplementation - It Is Hot, Now What?

Deer Supplementation - It Is Hot, Now What?

We often forget about the nutritional requirements required by whitetail deer during the dog days of summer. June –August is typically one of the most stressful times on whitetail deer, due both to heat and the increased nutrient demands of antler growth on bucks and lactation on doe. Courtesy of Sportsman's Choice/Record Rack: Summer Deer Supplementation. This blog contains useful information for deer supplementation during the summer months.

Summer is here and antler growth is in full swing.  We often forget about the nutritional requirements required by whitetail deer during the dog days of summer. June –August is typically one of the most stressful times on whitetail deer, due both to heat and the increased nutrient demands of antler growth on bucks and lactation on doe. Fawn survival during this time also aligns directly with the nutritional plane available for whitetail doe. Lactating doe have the highest nutritional demand of any animal in the herd, including bucks growing antlers. It is also important to remember that the better job we do feeding a doe while she is raising a fawn, the better the fawn will be when it matures. If we nutritionally stress a fawn at an early age, they will never be as big as they are genetically predisposed to be. Fawn nutrition is often overlooked by most, but I have found it can be one of the most limiting nutritional factors in a management program.

The major nutritional deficiency from a supplementation standpoint for bucks through the summer is a need for more energy in the diet to meet the demands of antler growth. Antler growth will increase the energy requirement of a buck by as much as 23%. It is important to remember that body condition will always take precedence over antler development. Other nutrients like protein, minerals and vitamins are all important to mature deer from an antler development standpoint, but we have found that energy is often the most limiting from a supplementation standpoint.  In a normal year, percentage of protein often gets more emphasis as a silver bullet. During antler growth and lactation, providing a supplement that is 20% protein (Record Rack Sportsman or Professional products) is more than sufficient to bridge the nutritional gap that may be lacking in native forage during the summer.

Even with lush range conditions, deer will still utilize a palatable supplemental feed as a portion of their diet. Supplements that are provided should be just that, a supplement to good habitat and not a substitute. Often we look for ways to substitute what mother-nature is providing versus utilizing supplements that will complement good habitat. Deer will always prefer to consume lush browse and forbs over most pelleted supplements, but just like good habitat, it is all about diversity.  Supplements should be provided year round in order to achieve the desired results. The major nutritional concern is supplementing energy and improving the rumen environment so deer are able to get more out of their native habitat. We often forget that deer are ruminant animals that are designed to digest fiber. Considering this, the first thing any hunter or manager should consider is how a particular supplement will influence the rumen environment. Improper mineral ratios and high starch levels from grains are all pitfalls I see game managers consistently fall into. High grain inclusions in pelleted rations, and many mineral supplements that are sold for whitetail deer, often times will cause more damage than good when we consider what they are doing to the digestive system of a whitetail deer. It makes us feel good to see deer consume the supplements we are providing, which is why many supplements being sold are simply candy that deer readily consume and is often doing more harm than good.  These types of “supplements” can cause some big changes to what is happening in the rumen of the deer which is where the majority of digestion occurs.   

Diversity of habitat is always first and foremost of what should be considered from a management standpoint. Improving native vegetation, utilizing food plots and providing a supplement that is specifically designed to complement these should be the three main nutritional concerns. The take home message is still simply this, all the feed in the world can’t replace good habitat.  Good habitat often becomes marginal habitat though when the threshold of carrying capacity is exceeded. There is a fine line we have to walk as far as carrying capacity is concerned.  We all would like to see more deer on our properties, but once we exceed the carrying capacity of our property, our habitat will start to pay the price. Many people often use feed to fill the gap, but once we pass the threshold we see measurements like field dress weights and antler mass of mature bucks start to be negatively impacted. Not having sufficient forage to carry your herd could have many implications, but in extreme cases we will even start to see doe not breeding due to poor body condition, lower fawn survival, and increased post rut mortality.

Feeding deer isn’t cheap, so it is important that you are providing supplements designed specifically for your deer and have the science to back it up.  Remember, think energy that is coming from fat and fiber not starch and sugar.  The supplement you use should be specifically designed for whitetail deer.  Consistent consumption is key to achieving results, so you need to provide the most palatable balanced supplements available. Improved intake translates into improved body condition and mass on your bucks and supports reproductive health for does. It is hard not to get lost in what to supplement with on pasture though, as most deer feeds all claim to be better than others. While most will provide some form of sound nutrition for your deer, the deciding factor should be consistent palatability and results. My best advice is to simply let your deer decide.  Offer several supplements and see which is preferred the most consistently, then let your records be your guide. Most ruminant animals do not have what we would call nutritional wisdom, but I believe whitetail deer are the exception to this rule as they are able to experience feedback from a meal much quicker than other ruminants and associate that with flavors or the consumption of a particular forage.

Nutrition is one of the variables that we can greatly influence with today’s advanced deer feed supplements. In a perfect world we would all be knee deep in diverse, nutrient dense forage being provided by our native habitat and food plots year round, but this is simply not the case. Until the day we are able to control precipitation, maintaining an effective supplementation program is crucial to ensure you are able to bridge the gap when times are bad and also allow your deer to get more out of what their habitat is providing.

WARNING: The feeding and baiting of wild deer is prohibited in some regions. Consult local laws and regulations before using this product.

Shared from sportsmanschoicefeeds.com