Deer Calving

November and early December bring the start of deer calving. By November hinds should have already been on an increased plane of nutrition for the last couple of months as the needs of the foetus increase towards the end of pregnancy. The requirements of a pregnant red deer hind in the last trimester of pregnancy (days 150 to 234 from conception) is around 24MJ ME/day depending on the body weight of the hind. This equates to 2.2kg DM of a good quality 11MJ ME/kg DM grass. Poor-quality pasture, low dry matter intakes from low pasture growth or high stocking rates, can lead to an energy deficit towards the end of pregnancy and may mean that a supplement needs to be fed.

Hinds need to be in good body condition for preparation of the start of lactation without being over fat as this can reduce milk production and as a result increase calf mortality. Care also needs to be taken with nutrition to maximise birth weights without over developing the foetus so that difficult calving occurs.

There is a misalignment of pasture quality in New Zealand pastures when it comes to feeding lactating hinds. The peak pasture quality comes two to three months earlier in spring when hinds are still pregnant. Summer brings lower-quality pasture at a time when hinds are lactating and need higher levels of nutrition to support milk production and calf growth. In peak lactation a 100kg red deer hind will have an energy requirement around 47 to 48MJ ME/day. If pasture quality is poor then a supplementary feed such as crushed barley or a pelleted deer feed such as Reliance Deer Performance Nuts may need to be fed to maintain milk production and keep hinds from losing too much weight. The ability to maintain milk production will subsequently affect the growth rates of the calves and mortality.

A high weaning weight is important for ensuring calf survival after weaning and to achieve high levels of production. Failure for a hind to successfully rear a calf represents a nil return to the farming system.

Reliance Deer Performance Nuts have an energy of 13MJ ME/kg and protein of 16% (on a dry matter basis). They also have the benefit of added vitamins and minerals such as vitamin D, calcium, phosphorus and magnesium to help support the hind's milk production during lactation. Other vitamins and minerals include vitamin A and E along with copper, selenium, manganese, iodine and zinc for hind health and reproduction. Grains generally contain low levels of minerals (with the exception of phosphorus) and vitamins, so a mineral supplement needs to be added to support vitamin and mineral requirements. Grains are also not heat treated like pelleted feeds and heating feed provides an increase of digestibility as it changes the structure of starch and helps the hinds get more out of the feed.

When pasture quality is poor, feeding Reliance Deer Performance Nuts will help hinds to maintain weight during lactation or at the end of pregnancy. Maintaining weight during lactation is particularly important as weight loss and low body condition scores are associated with a decline in fertility and a reduction in conception rates. This affects the reproductive efficiency of farms and as a result low conception rates are one of the main causes of culling on farms.

Lactating hinds should be fed at least 0.5kg per day of Reliance Deer Performance Nuts but in times of lower quality pasture or pasture availability, the feeding rates may need to be increased.

The Reliance Deer Performance Nuts should be fed out in a way to minimise competition between hinds. Red deer hinds have a strong hierarchal system (pecking order) so competition for space when feeding will force the smaller/younger hinds away from the feed. Feeding out in a line will help reduce competition and ensure that all hinds are getting an even intake of feed. Hinds need to be started off on small amounts of Reliance Deer Performance Nuts and gradually built up to the desired daily feed intake. This allows the hinds to gradually adapt to digesting the feed and reduces the risk of acidosis.

It is also important that clean, fresh water is provided to the hinds as not only do hinds have a higher water requirement during lactation but a lack of water will reduce feed intake.


  • Energy – 13MJ ME, Protein – 16% (on a dry matter basis)
  • Feed between 0.5-2kg/day depending on pasture quality and stocking rates
  • Contains added vitamins and minerals to help with lactation and fertility
  • Build hinds up gradually to the desired feed intake of Reliance Deer Performance Nuts as too much at once increases the risk of acidosis
  • Always provide clean, fresh water to hinds especially during lactation