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Strategic feeding for better first fawning performance

Boosting the growth rate of progeny from first fawning hinds is a high priority for Des Ford, manager of Deer Improvement’s Balfour farm.
 “Genetically they’re our best stags but phenotypically they don’t look the part when we sell them as two-years-old because they’re born three weeks later than the rest.”
Another factor reflected in their below par growth rate is the poorer lactation of the first fawning hinds. 
He plans to close the 10 kilogram weight average difference between the progeny of the first fawners and mixed-age hinds through strategic feeding of the hinds during lactation and the fawns from weaning until winter.
This year the hinds will be supplemented during lactation with whole barley from an Advantage feeder which Des hopes will lead to greater pre-weaning growth rates.  
But autumn is where he believes the greatest liveweight gains can be made by growing Relish red clover for weaner feeding.
“In autumn the pastures lose quality so I’m hoping that red clover will kick growth rates to 250 grams-plus before winter sets in.”
He’s been encouraged to trial red clover based on the positive feedback from another Southland AP farmer, now in his third season of growing the legume.
About 7ha will be established in late October and should be ready for the first grazing in January. If all goes according to plan the area grown will be increased and will also be used to make baleage to supplement winter grazed sale stags on fodder beet.
An acknowledged disadvantage of growing red clover is that it is dormant over the winter so can’t be grazed, but for Des that’s not a problem.
“All but a few of our deer are wintered on self-feed silage or crop so we don’t need paddocks with grass.”
Dean Carson, facilitator of the Southland Advance Party said replanting of the areas on a regular basis will need to be put down as a cost against red clover relative to permanent pasture. That extra cost could be as much as $200/ha/yr. If the red clover was fed to weaners then the extra animal performance required to offset the $200/ha/yr would need to be 126gms/head/d for every day of the year. 
Des believes that goal is achievable but says persistence of the red clover is the unknown.  “If we don’t get four years it will be expensive to grow.”
Further information on nutrition for lactating hinds is available here:
For information on nutrition for fast growing weaners read the Fact Sheet: