10 July 1998

Hinds must be full of beans to trim winter feed costs

Deer producers from all corners of the globe descended

on Limerick, Ireland, for the World Deer Farming Congress.

Winter feeding, alternative forages and fattening stock

were key topics. Simon Wragg reports

DEER producers must make the most of summer grazing to get pregnant hinds in good condition for winter housing if feed bills are to be cut without jeopardising calf development.

According to Dennis Chapple, senior consultant at ADAS Rosemaund, Hereford, hinds must be in good condition coming off grazing to ensure weight loss over winter is no more than 10% of body weight at mating. "Above this level, the birth weight of calves could be affected," he said.

Speaking to producers at Limerick University, Mr Chapple said trials at Rosemaund had shown mature five-year- old hinds could be over-wintered on a 11MJ ME/day ration while younger two-year-old hinds needed 15MJ ME/day.

ADAS trials using four-year-old hinds fed ad-lib barley straw and concentrates to 11, 14 and 17MJ ME/day, showed little overall change in body weight over a complete grazing and winter period. Although hinds on the 11MJ ME/day ration lost most weight during the winter, compensatory growth during spring was greatest, explained Mr Chapple.

Feed costs for the three rations varied between 11.3p – 19p/head/day for ad-lib straw, soya bean meal and fodder beet. Mr Chapple said feed costs could be cut by replacing ad-lib straw and some concentrates with big bale silage – saving about 3p/day.

Ensuring adequate grazing in late pregnancy and early lactation made little difference in calf birth weights whether hinds were fed 11, 14 or 17MJ rations, while for all groups calf weight gain to weaning averaged about 380g/day.

Better management of grass height, and use of alternative forages, could help speed up growth and finishing, according to New Zealand research.