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Effect of feeding supplements on the intake and live-weight gain of male red deer given silage during winter

  • J.R. Webster, I.D. Corson (a1) and R.P. Littlejohn (a1)

Abstract

The live-weight gain (LWG) of young male red deer in New Zealand naturally slows during winter and feeding diets of mainly silage appears to exacerbate this effect. We aimed to quantify the effect of feeding silage on intake and LWG during winter and the ability to improve LWG by feeding supplements, mainly in the form of barley. Seven groups of eight deer were maintained outside in gravelled enclosures and offered silage ad libitum for 94 days during winter. Six groups were given supplements (950 g barley with 50 g rapeseed meal per kg to make all diets isonitrogenous) at rates of proportionately 0·2, 0·4, 0·5, 0·6, 0·7 and 0·9 of the metabolizable energy (ME) intake of the group given only silage (0). The study also examined the effect of the winter treatments on subsequent LWG to slaughter weight whilst grazing on pasture during spring and into summer (102 days).

Increasing supplement intake resulted in a decrease in silage dry matter (DM) and ME intake (P < 0·001) and an increase in total ME intake (P < 0·01). The substitution rate for silage DM was 0·84 (s.e. 0·079). LWG during silage feeding was positively related (P < 0·01) to supplement intake with an increase of 6·21 g/day per MJ per day. LWG on pasture was not related to either supplement feeding rate or LWG during winter. LWG over the entire experiment was related (P < 0·01) to supplement feeding rate, with a final difference in live weight of 6 kg between 0 and 0·9 groups.

This study has confirmed that the LWG of young male deer is low during winter when given only silage and that feeding supplements increases total ME intake and LWG. The reduced LWG due to silage feeding was not compensated for on pasture during spring and summer, thus delaying the time to reach slaughter weight by approximately 1 month. High proportions of silage in the diet appear unsuitable for young male deer if the aim is to achieve rapid LWG during winter.

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