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Planning for fall deer nutrition

By Todd Steen, ProTrition Nutritionist 7/29/2021


ate summer and fall are the perfect times to evaluate feedstuff inventories to ensure whitetail deer have the nutrients they need. With breeding season upcoming, nutrient requirements for deer begin to increase, making it paramount that nourishment is available to sustain body reserves through colder weather. Without it, expect a loss of body condition, lower conception rate, increased morbidity and mortality, and diminished antler expression. 

It’s estimated that mature whitetail deer will consume approximately 6 percent of bodyweight during the fall season. Browse, forbs, and forages are the indispensable components of the diet for deer and make up the largest quantity of their intake. However, many of these ingredients are in shorter supply after summer and may be of lesser quality, which may necessitate supplemental nutrition. Check local regulations for feeding deer as counties within the state can have different laws. 

Protein is widely regarded as the most important nutrient for deer. Protein requirement increases during fall and is vital for growth, muscle deposition, reproduction, milk production, and antler expression. While protein is probably the most expensive nutrient, it is relatively easy to supplement. 

Energy is also needed in great quantity during the fall months. Whitetail deer require both carbohydrate and fat to complete energy needs. Carbohydrates are classified as structural (fibrous material) and non-structural (starches and sugars) and are considered the major energy source. 

Fat — another important energy source for deer — is required in smaller amounts than carbohydrates. Mineral supplementation is also important in the case of calcium, phosphorus, and to a somewhat lesser degree, magnesium. 

When supplementing wildlife, it is best to offer balanced nutrients as opposed to providing individual ingredients. Animals, of course, lack the cognitive abilities to choose feeds to meet a specific, individual nutrient requirement. While all animals consume to meet an energy need, they’re unable to purposely satisfy other explicit requirements, and proper balance is critical to prevent over-indulgence. 

Your local Co-op provides supplement options to aid wildlife when normal feedstuffs lack enough sustainable nutrient. Again, check local wildlife regulations regarding supplementation, and contact your local Co-op Feed and Animal Health Specialist for assistance.

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