I tried feeding my local girls some hay last winter and the didn't eat it. Then I tried some alfalfa cubes, they didn't like them either. I have been feeding them a mix of shelled corn, rolled corn, and dry molassas. They love that. I may have them spoiled. As soon as they come out of hiding, I'm going to try some apple/oat cookies.That's if there are any deer left after the neighbor blasted away throughout the entire season. I haven't seen any in the last two weeks. Season ended last saturday, so I'll put some corn out tonight.
Read somewhere long ago that deer fed on hay in the lean months will starve to death if that is all they have to eat . Alfalfa yes , hay no ! Anyone have more info on this ? Believe it had to do with their digestive system .
Deer do not graze they browse. That really means that grasses the primary component of hay is NOT a preferred food for deer. I'm sure if they were hungry enough and there was nothing else around to eat they would sample it but I don't think they could survive on it. Then again it kinda sorta depends on what's baled up and called hay.
They prefer forbs aka weeds and some hay fields no doubt have some of that in them and it would be mixed with the hay so they might pick at it and get the preferred forbs if any from it. They'll eat briars, limb tips, buds, leaves and darn near anything they can find before they will eat grass.
And they'll paw and work thru twice as much as they eat. Around here most of the hay is really meadow cuttings which contain a very diverse collection of grasses and forbs so maybe they're pawing and nosing thru to get to the stuff they like. I've seen them with what I'd call hay hanging out of their mouths while they chewed.
I have seen large numbers of deer out in alfalfa fields day after day. I have no doubt they are eating green alfalfa. Those of us that have lived in ranch country have seen deer on a daily bases follow a pickup out in field that was feeding cows baled hay. Many ranch families prefer a young alfalfa buck for eating to the old guy living in the brush.
When a super big winter storm hits the western states and the deer are stranded everybody wants to rush out and feed them hay. Many times the effort fails. Fish and Game departments tell the public that these efforts are expensive and they do not work. In extreme cold when deer cannot get nutrients they can starve to death in a short time. The problem with feeding them hay or alfalfa is that it is foreign to their system. It takes time for their digestive tract to adjust so it can process the alfalfa/hay. A number of F&G departments have published studies on the issue.
A lot of does will drop their fawns in an alfalfa field. When the tractor with the mower cuts the hay the fawns freeze in the bed. The results are very traumatic as the mower over runs the hidden fawn. One year a brother killed a three-legged fork on a hill above an alfalfa field. A front leg was missing from about the knee joint. From the looks of the old injury we guessed it was the results of getting amputated by a mower.
Some F&G departments issue permits to ranchers to kill deer eating their hay.
30-30man, you are right about deer and watermelons, each year i plant 350-400 hills of jubilee watermelons when they get to about 25-30 lb size the deer start busting them, they eat the end out and go bust another one, last year deer cost me about 100.00-150.00 night busting watermelons.
As have been stated yes they will eat hay, however they prefere the brouse, and when seen eating on a bale of hay they are usually picking out the weed plants that are contained in the bale, I have several acres of bermuda hay and it is some of the best hay for cattle and horses, I have never seen a deer eating on that hay, but have some pastures that are just plain old grass pastures, thats where you will find the deer, a trick of some of the cattlemen here was to run a few goats with their cattle to improve their pastures, the cattle eat the grasses and the goats eat the WEED plants. JIM
Our hay is certified weed free,as you can see they have acres and acres of browse outside the alfalfa fields to eat,they prefer the hay after the snow falls because they can bed in the stack and munch all night long,they also feed in it all summer while it is still green,deer eat hay.
I am in total agreement with NONYA; deer eat both green and dry alfalfa hay. I also agree that an unadjusted deer can starve to death on it. Western wildlife departments have done a number of studies on the issue. In the past most Western deer herds were migratory. For some the migration was from high elevation to a lower elevation to escape heavy winter snows. This might mean a short migration of a few miles. Other herds would migrate many miles to the wintering grounds.
Many times we have stopped during the summer to glass the deer feeding out in an alfalfa feed. For a better name I will call them Alfalfa Deer. They may spend their lifetime in, or near an alfalfa field. Some will be seen feeding in the fields during the day, but there will be far more after dark. These deer microorganisms digest alfalfa.
During harsh winters Non-Alfalfa deer are trapped by storms, or pushed in to neighborhoods. These deer have a digestive system that has microorganisms suitable to digesting vegetation found in the wild. When fed non-native foods such as many types of hay including alfalfa they will starve to death on a full stomach. It will take seven days to two weeks for a deer’s system to adjust to alfalfa. They can starve to death in that short of time.
Here in New Mexico the deer stop by the stack and eat the corners off of the bales so bad that the wires wont stay on . they also eat out of the round bales on the other side.This is while they are on their way to standing green hay . I don't know about having to adjust to it or not but they will eat baled alfalfa. every snowstorm 5 bale is put out in the mesquite for them takes about a week for the bales to be gone and nothing left.
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