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Improving Fawn Survival

Reducing the number of fawn deaths by improving the pasture cover in fawning paddocks has been a success judging by a first year trial at Deer Improvement’s Balfour farm.

Farm manager Des Ford says the intensive farming system with little natural cover is a risk factor for new-born fawns who sometimes wander, poke their way through fences and end up separated from mum and die.

But a timely discussion of the problem at a 2014 Advance Party meeting led to some positive action and change. Advance Party members suggested Des try longer pastures pre-fawning to provide much needed cover for fawns. Taking this advice on board Des targeted pasture cover in the 2015 fawning blocks of about 2,500kg/DM/ha rather than the 1600kg/DM/ha of previous years. The hinds, as is the usual practice, were run at a conservative 6su/ha because of the condensed fawning due to AI which is used across most of the breeding herd.

The opportunity cost was an estimated 150,000kg/DM less for silage in November. Des also had to tidy up the pastures once the fawns are on their feet by making balage to either sell to dairy farmers or supplementary fed to stags on swedes over winter. But the overall goal of improved fawn survivability was achieved.

“We usually get 90% weaning (fawns from pregnant hinds) on flat paddocks but I managed to sneak that up a couple of percent last year.”

He’ll be repeating the management this year.

 “Our fawning is variable for year to year, so if we can keep that consistent result over the next couple of years I’ll be happy.”

 

For information on fawning management go to:

www.deernz.org/deerhub/calving-environment