10 July 1998

Stag feed reaction

RESTRICTING the winter feeding of stags limits compensatory growth during spring and summer grazing by up to 20%, claim Danish researchers.

Work conducted by Frank Vigh-Larsen at the Danish Institute of Animal Science has shown stags fed ad-lib during the winter housing period can achieve up to 20% extra growth during the following spring and summer grazing period.

Mr Vigh-Larsen believes that restrictive winter feeding practices hamper the development of deer markets world-wide. The higher growth rates achieved by feeding ad-lib would help producers finish stags throughout the year – a requirement of the venison market, he said.

In Danish trials, maintaining artificial daylight for 16 hours/day during winter housing against shorter natural daylight has shown an improvement in feed efficiency. Weight gain increased from 206g/day to 254g/day with artificial lighting, while feed conversion improved from 105-92MJ ME/kg gain.

To maintain growth when outwintered, calf stags and adults require 22 and 50% more energy, respectively, than housed stags. The savings from feeding housed stags could offset some of the extra cost of ad-lib feeding during the winter housing period in a bid to meet all-year-round production targets, he added.

"There is no difference in carcass quality from those deer finished at grass or from housing. This allows producers the flexibility to look at feeding systems to meet the demands of the market for year-round supply," said Mr Vigh-Larsen.