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Here, “range” is defined as fenced land stocked with deer. Under natural conditions each species of deer has its specific habitat requirements which will differ to a greater or lesser extent from those of other species. In principle it is advisable that on deer farms the natural habitat requirements of the various species of deer be replicated as much as possible. However, several species of deer have proved to be very adaptable in their requirements and may actually thrive in captivity under conditions which differ considerably from those found in the wild.

In order to keep deer in good physical condition and also to meet their behavioural requirements, it is essential that some elements of natural range conditions be provided on deer farm range. These include cover, certain food plants which are preferred in the wild and a permanent source of water.

Table 3 : DAILY FOOD SUPPLY FOR THE MALE (gm per head/day)

 MonthSilagegmDry RoughagegmJuicygmFinegmMineralgmAnimalmlSalt(gm)
Preparatory Period SepMulberry*/Zelkova/Lettuce/Plum**/Apricot/Bean leaf***/Date leaf/Chinese cabbage/Sweetpotato leaf550 M. alba/M. cathayana/ M. mongolica/ Prunus salicina/ Prunus mume/ Prunus armeniaca100 Potato
Mung bean
Wheat bran
100Inkfish bone meal/ Bone meal/Synthetic minerals5Cod-liver oil21
OctMulberry/Sweetpotato leaf/Chinese cabbage/Turnip leaf/Bean leaf/Box/Euonymus fortunei/Pittosporum glabratum/Beet leaf/Apple leaf550Ditto125Potato
Breeding PeriodNovChinese cabbage/Turnip leaf/Carrot leaf/Coriaria sinica/Box/Euonymus fortunei/Pittosporum glabratum/Beet leaf/Apple leaf500Ditto150Ditto200Ditto150Ditto6Ditto21
DecBox/Euonymus fortunei/Pittosporum glabratum/Coriaria sinica500Ditto150Ditto200Ditto150Ditto6Ditto21
JanBox/Eunonymus fortunei/Pittosporum glabratum500Ditto150Potato/Turnip/Sweetpotato/Carrot200Ditto150Ditto6Ditto21
AprAzalea/Chinese Sumac/Papermulberry/Elm550Ditto100  Ditto150Ditto4Ditto10.5
Musk Secreting PeriodMayAzalea/Chinese Sumac/Mulberry/Papermulberry/Zelkova/Plum/Cherry550Ditto100  Ditto100Ditto3  0.5
JunMulberry/Zelkova/Plum/Lettuce/Bean leaf550Ditto75  Ditto75Ditto3  0.5
Normal PeriodJulMulberry/plum/Zelkova/Bean leaf550Ditto75Potato
150Ditto75Ditto3  0.5
AugDitto550Ditto75Ditto150Ditto75Ditto3  0.5

* Mulberry: Morus alba/Morus australis/Morus cathayana/Morus mongolica/Coriaria sinica
** Plum: Prunus salicina/Prunus armeniaca/Prunus mume
*** Bean leaf: Soybean/Cowpea/Phaseolus/Red bean/Mung bean

Table 4 : DAILY FOOD SUPPLY FOR THE FEMALE (gm per head/day)

 MonthSilagegmDry RoughagegmJuicygmFinegmMineralgmAnimalmlSalt(gm)
Preparatory PeriodSepMulberry*/Zelkova/Lettuce/Plum**/Apricot/Bean leaf***/Date leaf/Chinesecabbage/Sweetpotato leaf600M. alba
M. cathayana
M. mongolica
Prunus salicina
Prunus mume
Prunus armeniaca
Mung bean
Wheat bran
100Inkfish bone meal/Bone meal/Synthetic minerals6Cod-liver oil11
OctMulberry/Sweetpotato leaf/Chinese cabbage/Turnip leaf/Bean leaf/Box/Euonymus fortunei/Pittosporum glabratum/Beet leaf/Apple leaf600Ditto125Potato
Breeding & Gestational PeriodNovChinese cabbage/Turnip leaf/Carrot leaf/Box/Coriaria sinica/Euonymus fortunei/Pittosporum glabratum/Beet leaf/Apple leaf500Ditto150Ditto200Ditto150Ditto5Ditto11
DecBox/Euonymus fortunei/Pittosporum glabratum/Coriaria sinica500Ditto150Ditto200Ditto150Ditto5Ditto11
JanBox/Euonymus fortunei/Pittosporum glabratum500Ditto150Potato/Sweetpotato Turnip/Carrot200Ditto150Ditto5Ditto11
AprAzalea/Chinese sumac/Papermulberry/Elm550Ditto100  Ditto125Ditto6Ditto21
Calving & Nursing PeriodMayAzalea/Chinese sumac/Mulberry/Papermulberry/Zelkova/Plum/Cherry600Ditto75  Ditto125Ditto6Ditto21
JunMulberry/Zelkova/Plum/Lettuce/Bean leaf600Ditto75  Ditto125Ditto6Ditto20.5

* Mulberry: Morus alba/Morus australis/Morus cathayana/Morus mongolica/Coriaria sinica
** Plum: Prunus salicina/Prunus armeniaca/Prunus mume
*** Bean leaf: Soybean/Cowpea/Phaseolus/Red bean/Mung bean

Cover or shelter is essential to protect the deer against wind-chill, excessive sunshine or snowstorms. Some cover should be available in each paddock for the deer to retreat to. Cover should be dense in places. Newly-born deer generally prefer sheltered locations.

With respect to food requirements, some deer species are mainly “browsers” - that is they eat mainly twigs and leaves - while other species are mainly “grazers” - these select mainly grasses, herbs and forbs. All deer species eat a wide variety of food plants, however, and their food intake changes with the seasons. It is important for the deer farmer to know what food plants are preferred by the deer he has on his land and when and what parts of them are normally eaten.

If a range is overstocked, the preferred food plants are usually over-utilized and may eventually be killed by continuous use. This results in a reduction of the carrying capacity of the range which can only be rectified by reducing the stocking rate of the deer below this capacity. However, it usually takes a long time for the preferred food plants to regenerate or to re-establish themselves, and therefore overstocking should be guarded against as much as possible.

Good range conditions normally produce high pregnancy rates. Thus, high rates among 1½ year old hinds can be used as indicators of good range condition.

Pressure on preferred or palatable food plants can be reduced by giving the deer supplementary feed at times when food is scarce, such as winter or drought seasons.

Deer must have a good supply of clean, fresh drinking water, but their exact requirements vary between species.

5.1 Range Improvement

Deer adapt readily to a wide variety of topography, land classes and feed quality, but they respond well to improved nutrition. For this reason higher returns are obtained from deer run on better land.

There is a tendency among deer farmers to spend too much time on herd and fence improvement and too little on range improvement. It cannot be over-emphasized that the deer farmer should make continuous efforts to improve range conditions on his land as this will result in increased carrying capacity of the land which, in turn, will permit higher stocking rates.

The methods of range management for deer are similar to those which are well-established for domestic stock, namely controlled burning, re-seeding, fertilization and bush-control.

Controlled burning may become necessary if certain species of trees, shrubs or grasses which are not palatable to deer, spread and take over range which otherwise would be occupied by palatable plants. This spread of unpalatable species is frequently a result of sustained over-stocking of the range.

“Controlled” burning implies that fire should be utilized only when its spread can be controlled by man and his tools and in such a way that subsequent erosion by exposure of the soil is minimized. If the objective is to kill trees or shrubs, the fire should be hot enough to do so. Sometimes an area needs to be burned more than once to accomplish this. Grass fires often favour more palatable species taking the place of those that are burned. Sometimes it is advisable to re-seed immediately after a fire in order to ensure that the more desirable species establish themselves.

On rough and hilly land, re-seeding can best be accomplished by aerial means. Preferably a mixture of palatable species should be used for re-seeding, including legumes which have the added advantage of enriching the soil with nitrogen.

Under intensive management it may be economical to cultivate the land and grow fodder crops, rather than buy feed. These crops may be either harvested and fed to the deer when required or the deer may be allowed to graze them down.

Although so far very little effort has been made to maintain soil fertility on deer farms by the application of artificial or organic fertilizers, under intensive management this may become a necessity in the long term. Certainly, liming of acid pasture and fertilising of plots on which fodder crops are grown, would be to the long-term advantage of the deer farmer.

5.2 Stocking Rates

The stocking rate - the number of animal units stocked per unit area (usually expressed as number per/ha) is clearly dependent on the quality of pasture available.

The carrying capacity of a range is its capacity to carry a certain stocking rate on a sustained basis, without causing deterioration in the quality of the range.

Obviously, it is important for a deer farmer to know at what density per unit area he should stock his animals to allow for a crop on a sustained yield basis, without damaging the vegetation or degrading the land. As environmental conditions vary greatly from place to place, it is not possible to give satisfactory recommendations about what the actual stocking rate should be for different deer species. The best approach for the farmer to use is to look for signs of range deterioration, which would indicate that the range is overstocked. These include:

  1. Over-utilization of the more palatable or preferred food plants. This over-use can be readily determined, because in comparison to unpalatable or less preferred plants, these particular plants are heavily grazed or browsed and may even be dying or be killed as a result. Some palatable species can, however, withstand heavy utilization pressure and, in fact, produce more stalks or twigs and consequently more food. The deer farmer should therefore acquire a rather detailed knowledge of how the more palatable species on his range are affected by deer utilization.

  2. Localized erosion on deer trails, scrapes etc.

Early signs of range deterioration are usually difficult to detect and the inexperienced deer farmer may be inclined to allow this process to go further than he should.

It should be remembered that it takes far more time for a range to restore itself than to be depleted and also that the carrying capacity of over-grazed range is reduced to a much lower level than it would be under optimum range conditions. The farmer is therefore advised to reduce the stocking rate even if he only suspects that the range is being depleted.

The winter or dry season is generally the period when the range is least productive for deer. For example, the carrying capacity of reindeer ranges is determined by the amount and quality of available winter range lichens. There is no advantage to the farmer to keep the range below the optimum carrying capacity.

Stocking with mixed herds of deer and cattle may increase the number of animal units that can be carried on a deer farm, as cattle could eat roughage unpalatable to deer and clear the pasture so that deer can graze on grass growing on patches from which this roughage was removed.

Higher stocking rates can be maintained on fertile, productive land than on marginal land or poor soils. However, economics generally preclude highly productive land from being used for deer farming, as more financial gain can be obtained from the growing of cash crops or the raising of domestic stock.

On highly productive farm land in New Zealand, stocking rates of 12 – 15 adult red deer per hectare can be sustained (Drew and McDonald, 1976).

At Invermay, New Zealand, stocking rate experiments were conducted on first-class agricultural land with yearling red deer, starting August/September and finishing in February/March in three successive years (1974/75 to 1976/77). The results obtained are given in Table 5.

Table 5: Stocking rates and venison production on first-class agricultural land (after Drew and Green, 1978)

Mixed SexEntire and Castrate StagsEntire Stags
Stocking rate/ha26.431.430.7
Animal Weight at 15 months (kg)79.077.981.2
Liveweight in 180 days (kg/ha)86012351200
Carcass gain in 180 days (kg/ha)520740720

* Production during the first season was restricted, partly because the stocking rate wasbelow the optimum and partly because the animals included females with a relatively lowgrowth rate.

One farmer in New Zealand ran 24 stags/ha year around on irrigated pasture and requires only a minimum of feed supplementation during the winter.

No details are available about the stocking rates of musk deer. However, old ones should be separated from the young and the strong from the weak in order to avoid pressures exerted by the dominant ones. To prevent animals from biting each other, protruding teeth should be blunted with bone-cutting scissors in front of the blood vessel.

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