Skip to main content Accessibility help

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)


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.


Corresponding author


Hide All
Aagnes, T. H. and Mathiesen, S.D. 1995. Round baled grass silage as food for reindeer in winter. Rangifer 15: 2735.
Adam, C. L. and Moir, C. E. 1985. Effect of winter nutrition of young farmed red deer on their subsequent growth at pasture. Animal Production 40: 135141.
Agricultural and Food Research Council. 1993. Energy and protein requirements of ruminants. An advisory manual prepared by the AFRC Technical Committee on Responses to Nutrients. CAB International, Wallingford, UK.
Brelurut, A., Theriez, M. and Bechet, G. 1995. Effects of winter feeding level on the performance of red deer calves (Cervus elaphus). Animal Science 60: 151156.
Chamberlain, D. G., Thomas, P. C., Wilson, W., Newbold, C. J. and MacDonald, J. C. 1985. The effects of carbohydrate supplements on ruminal concentrations of ammonia in animals given diets of grass silage. Journal of Agricultural Science, Cambridge 104: 331340.
Chiofalo, V., Dulphy, J. P. and Baumont, R. 1992. Influence of the method of forage conservation on feeding behaviour, intake and characteristics of reticulo-rumen content, in sheep fed ad libitum . Reproduction, Nutrition, Development 32: 377392.
Choung, J. J., Chamberlain, D. G., Thomas, P. C. and Bradbury, I. 1990. The effects of intraruminal infusions of urea on the voluntary intake and milk production of cows receiving grass silage diets. Journal of Dairy Research 57: 455464.
Corson, D. C., Waghorn, G. C., Ulyatt, M. J. and Lee, J. 1999. NIRS: forage analysis and livestock feeding. Proceedings of the New Zealand Grassland Association 61: 127132.
Davies, M. 1991. Rosemaund update on finishing stags. Deer Farming 35: 911.
Dawson, L. E. R. and Mayne, C. S. 1998. The effect of silage fermentation characteristics on dry-matter intake of steers. Animal Science 66: 105113.
Demarquilly, C. 1973. Chemical composition, fermentation characteristics, digestibility and intake of silages: modifications in relation to the original green fodder. Annales de Zootechnie 22: 135.
Dixon, R. M. and Stockdale, C. R. 1999. Associative effects between forages and grains: consequences for feed utilisation. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 50: 757773.
Domingue, B. M. F., Dellow, D. W., Wilson, P. R. and Barry, T. N. 1991. Comparative digestion in deer, goats, and sheep. New Zealand Journal of Agricultural Research 34: 4553.
Dulphy, J. P., Michalet Doreau, B. and Demarquilly, C. 1984. Comparative study of feed intake, feeding and ruminating behaviour in sheep and cattle fed silages subjected to different treatments. Annales de Zootechnie 33: 291320.
Dulphy, J. P. and Os, M. van. 1996. Control of voluntary intake of precision-chopped silages by ruminants: a review. Reproduction, Nutrition, Development 36: 113135.
Fennessy, P. F. 1982. Growth and nutrition. In The farming of deer. World trends and modern techniques (ed. Yerex, D.), pp. 105114. Agricultural Promotion Associates Ltd, Wellington, New Zealand.
Fennessy, P. F., Greer, G. J. and Forss, D. A. 1980. Voluntary intake and digestion in red deer and sheep. Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production 40: 158162.
Freudenberger, D. O., Toyokawa, K., Barry, T. N., Ball, A. J. and Suttie, J. M. 1994. Seasonality in digestion and rumen metabolism in red deer (Cervus elaphus) fed on a forage diet. British Journal of Nutrition 71: 489499.
Maloiy, G. M. O., Kay, R. N. B. and Goodall, E. D. 1970. Digestion and nitrogen metabolism in sheep and red deer given large or small amounts of water and protein. British Journal of Nutrition 24: 843855.
Milne, J. A. 1980. Comparative digestive physiology and metabolism of the red deer and the sheep. Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production 40: 151157.
Milne, J. A., MacRae, J. C., Spence, A. M. and Wilson, S. 1978. A comparison of the voluntary intake and digestion of a range of forages at different times of the year by the sheep and the red deer (Cervus elaphus). British Journal of Nutrition 40: 347357.
Milne, J. A., Sibbald, A. M., McCormack, H. A. and Loudon, A. S. I. 1987. The influences of nutrition and management on the growth of red deer calves from weaning to 16 months of age. Animal Production 45: 511522.
Mould, F. L., Ørskov, E. R. and Mann, S. O. 1983. Associative effects of mixed feeds. 1. Effects of type and level of supplementation and the influence of rumen pH on cellulolysis in vivo and dry matter digestion of various roughages. Animal Feed Science and Technology 10: 1530.
Offer, N. W., Percival, D. S., Dewhurst, R. J. and Thomas, C. 1998. Prediction of the voluntary intake potential of grass silage by sheep and dairy cows from laboratory silage measurements. Animal Science 66: 357367.
Rooke, J. A., Brett, P. A., Overend, M. A. and Armstrong, D.G. 1985. The energetic efficiency of rumen microbial protein synthesis in cattle given silage-based diets. Animal Feed Science and Technology 13: 255267.
Sibbald, A. M. and Milne, J. A. 1993. Physical characteristics of the alimentary tract in relation to seasonal changes in voluntary food intake by the red deer (Cervus elaphus). Journal of Agricultural Science, Cambridge 120: 99102.
Siddons, R. C., Nolan, J. V., Beever, D. E. and MacRae, J. C. 1985. Nitrogen digestion and metabolism in sheep consuming diets containing contrasting forms and levels of N. British Journal of Nutrition 54: 175187.
Suttie, J. M., Goodall, E. D., Pennie, K. and Kay, R. N. B. 1983. Winter food restriction and summer compensation in red deer stags (Cervus elaphus). British Journal of Nutrition 50: 737747.
Syrjala Quist, L. 1982a. Comparison of grass silage utilization by reindeer and sheep. 1. Palatability, feeding values and nutrient supply. Journal of the Scientific Agricultural Society of Finland 54: 119126.
Syrjala Quist, L. 1982b. Comparison of grass silage utilization by reindeer and sheep. 2. Rumen fermentation and rumen microbiota. Journal of the Scientific Agricultural Society of Finland 54: 127135.
Thomas, C. and Thomas, P. C. 1988. Factors affecting the nutritive value of grass silages. In Recent developments in ruminant nutrition (ed. Haresign, W. and J.A.|Cole, D.), pp. 274307. Butterworths, London.
Vik Mo, L. 1989. Degradability of forages in sacco. 1. Grass crops and silages after oven and freeze drying. Acta Agriculturæ Scandinavica 39: 4352.
Webster, J. R., Corson, I. D., Littlejohn, R. P., Masters, B.M. and Suttie, J. M. 2000. Effect of diet energy density and season on voluntary dry-matter and energy intake in male red deer. Animal Science 70: 547554.
Webster, J. R., Corson, I. D. and Suttie, J. M. 1997. The effect of housing and food restriction during winter on growth of male red deer calves. Animal Science 64: 171176.
Wilkins, J. R., Hutchinson, K. J., Wilson, R. F. and Harris, C.E. 1971. The voluntary intake of silage by sheep. I. Interelationships between silage composition and intake. Journal of Agricultural Science, Cambridge 77: 531537.



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed