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Workshop – precasting stag nutrition

DINZ producer manager (and former AgResearch Invermay scientist) Tony Pearse and AgResearch scientist David Stevens worked with Next Gen AP members on their feeding plans for velvet stags.



  • The trigger for button drop is changing daylight length and age. Poor nutrition will delay casting but where feed is adequate, providing extra feed will not bring it further forward.
  • Nutrition in the 3-4 weeks before button drop is critical for maximising velvet production. Button-drop typically begins around mid-August in mature stags, but can be as early as July and as late as October for 2-yr old stags .
  • Clean, high-quality pasture meets the nutrition needs of velvet stags. If plenty of pasture is available, feeding supplements will not further increase yields as stags tend to divert from available grass to supplement. However, feeding low levels of a supplement may be useful insurance, as it enables levels to be increased if bad weather stops growth or results in pasture being soiled.
  • If practical, separate age groups up until 4 or 5 yrs old. This allows diets to be adjusted to meet the needs of each age group.
  • Dietary protein requirements vary with age:

R1 stags should have 22-25% CP for pedicle initiation

2-yr olds need 18-22% CP from 3 wks before button drop

MA stags need a minimum of 16-18% CP from 3 wks before button drop but higher levels have some benefit if it’s cost-effective .

  • If pasture is tight, supplement R1 stags from early July, so they get the 22-25% CP they need for optimum pedicle initiation.
  • There is no evidence to show that Cu supplementation has any benefit where Cu levels are already adequate. Think twice before applying Cu to grass destined for baleage. High Cu levels have an adverse effect on fermentation.


Full meeting record and details below.


Meeting details

Southland Next Generation Advance Party
27 August 2019
12:00 pm to 05:00 pm