The potential for red deer calves to grow is at its maximum during lactation and the early autumn before the first winter. Capturing this potential is one key to economic success in venison production. On-farm and experimental results have shown a wide range of live weight gains during these periods. Feed allowance during this time should ensure that residual pasture mass should not be below 1200-1500 kg DM/ha, while pasture allowance should be above 4 kg DM/d. Feed quality needs to be above 11 MJ ME/kg DM or a pasture should contain more than 70% green leaf. Poor liveweight gain in calves during late lactation and autumn delays subsequent slaughter and may lead to a substitution of weaners for hinds, decreasing the net productivity of a farming system. Strategies for improving both the amount and quality of feed on offer during summer and autumn include improved spring management, use of grasses with later flowering dates, increasing the use of specialist high-quality feeds such as red clover, chicory and lucerne, using management to increase white clover content and using brassicas or concentrate feeds if other options fail.

DR, Stevens, and ID Corson

Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 63, Queenstown, 218-221, 2003
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