Cervid Feeding

Dr. Lyle Renecker, from Stratford, spoke at the recent Canadian Red Deer association field day near Alfred. Dr. Renecker is a cervid researcher and formulator of the Plus Line of feed supplements and an elk rancher. The following are just three of the nutritional topics covered at the field day:

Creep Feeder

Dr. Renecker finds it beneficial to provide creep feeders for his calves. The creeps, produced from square tubular steel, can be moved around like trailers. A plywood top provides shade for calves and encourages them to enter the creep and eat. As well, the plywood prevents the cows from jumping into the creep. For the persistent cow, the creep has a one way spring-loaded gate, allowing her to escape without injury. Flies are kept off calves by the fly spray applicator attached to the creep. Dr. Renecker puts feed in the creep every day or two. The calves see him go into the creep and they go to investigate after he leaves.

Feed For Antler Growth

When feeding adult males for velvet production, Dr. Renecker recommends increasing their feed in March when the buttons drop off. You have 3.5 months of feeding to develop the best antlers. In March cervids naturally gear up their bodies for spring when traditionally the best feed is available. Feed intake jumps the end of March at the spring solstice. There are two more intake jumps, the end of April and the end of May. If your plan is to sell males for hunt farms feed supplement until antlers are hard.

Winter Feeding

In the fall and winter cervids' metabolic rate naturally drops. They do not utilize much energy. Surplus energy in the diet can cause founder, laminitis and acidosis. As a result Dr. Renecker has seen abscesses develop and hooves drop off.

Surplus protein leads to concentrated urine. The uric acid can cause burning in the female's vulva and vagina. This burning leads to ulcerations and secondary infections. The males can also suffer a burning sensation, inflammation and infection. Straining during urination can cause the male's sheath to invert. If the damage is serious enough surgery is required. Over-feeding of protein could affect the ability to breed and the quality of the semen.

Cervids naturally gear back their intake and metabolism in the winter because of the traditional lack of food. Over-feeding will not change that cycle. Farmers must feed them the best balance of nutrients for each stage of their cycle.

For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca
Author: Craig Richardson - Animal Care Specialist/OMAFRA
Creation Date: July 2000
Last Reviewed: 28 September 2015