Set up for spring feeding now, advises Glenn Judson, Agricom animal nutritionist and adviser to the deer industry’s P2P feeding group.

Unlike sheep and beef systems early spring for deer systems was the critical time to have feed budgeted to capitalise on the main venison and velvet markets. Weaners were gearing up for growth, velvet stags were on the brink of button drop, and hinds were in the final trimester of pregnancy.

“It won’t be easy given the feed shortages in a lot of places but now’s the time to be looking at where and how you can ration things, so you have a feed bubble for August and September,” he said.

Anecdotal evidence was that the yield of winter crops was back about 20-30%.

“It’s ugly but you need to know just how ugly, are you dealing with a 50 tonne or 250 tonne feed gap?

A winter feed budget was an obvious and important step, but there was potential to further finetune by identifying maintenance and sub-maintenance lines of stock.

“You can split mobs up according to when you plan to quit stock or when you absolutely have to start increasing their intake.”

His other tip in a tight feed winter situation was to match the feeding of supplements with fodder beet and brassicas according to protein content. A good example was fodder beet which was higher protein source over the first part of winter until the leaf started wilting and dying off.

“For beet it makes sense to feed the lower value protein supplements early on and the higher protein supplements later on.”