Spring is definitely upon us--earlier than usual this season! This is known as a whitetail deer buffet, and that is great news as far as antler production is concerned. Antler growth is directly correlated with spring rainfall. Simply put, the more it rains March through May, the better antlers will be regardless of other variables.
It's important to note, though, that proper supplementation can still get you that extra 10%, even in lush green conditions, provided you are feeding the right feed correctly. Our partner's at Sportman's Choice formulated their Record Rack products to perform in excellent habitat conditions and designed them to complement native habitat, not substitute for it.
Record Rack is a highly palatable feed designed to promote positive rumen function without digestive upset. If we keep the bugs happy in the gut, deer will associate that with positive feedback; and that's ultimately how they make their browsing choices. Deer are concentrate selectors, though, and will always choose to mix a diet to meet their requirements (which are above average compared to other ruminants). Including a supplemental feed like Record Rack in the diet enables deer to absorb more nutrients from their native diet due to the positive effects on the digestive system.
One other important point to call out is that browse and forbs have an extremely high moisture content at this time of year. Included below is a habitat analysis done in south Texas in the spring of 2012.
This consisted of class 1 preferred browse and forb species. Important to note that this sample was dried for about a week before being sent off for analysis. Moisture levels in browse and forbs that are fresh are typically much higher and nutrient density on as-fed basis is typically even lower than this.
|Dry Matter (%)||56.94||100.00|
|Crude Protein (%)||10.77||18.92|
|Ether Extract Fat (%)||1.43||2.51|
|Total Digestible Nutrients (%)||33.66||59.11|
Nutrient levels will vary from one ranch to the next and from season to season, but you can see how high moisture levels water down the nutrient value. Deer have a small rumen and can only consume so much dry matter on a daily basis, so it’s important to maintain a nutrient-dense feed source during this time that will maximize gut health and complement native habitat. After all, energy is one of the most limiting nutrients when it comes to antler production and doe lactation. This is where feed supplementation really helps, provided you're using a feed like Record Rack, which increases energy levels from fat while limiting the amount of starch introduced into the diet.
Deer can ultimately tell you what they prefer and what is better for them based on consistent intake. Offer your deer several different pellets to see what they prefer, and you may be surprised how, even in lush conditions, they'll make good use of the right supplemental feed. And if you're not certain where to get started, call or stop by one of our stores today, and we'll be happy to point you in the right direction!