Weaning can be a complicated decision in the deer world.
Research has shown that management decisions around the time of weaning can have a huge effect on the profitability of your farm. In the wild, fawns won’t wean themselves until they are at least 7 months old. This is not feasible within a farming system.
Post-rut weaning is better suited for extensive hill country properties that have relatively low input. It is a great choice for maintaining fawn growth at the cost of reducing the conception rate in the hinds. Pre-rut weaning will reduce feed demand by up to 20% and maintain the reproductive performance in your hinds. It is important that fawns are at least 12 weeks old to ensure full rumen development and function. This is the more popular timing of weaning and hence is the focus of the article.
The pros of pre-rut weaning include:
- Feed management: you are able to prioritise different classes of stock prior to winter.
- Targeted animal husbandry treatments, you do not have to bring in both fawns and hinds to only treat one of the two stock classes.
- Mating management of hinds is much more simple.
- Reduces the lactation period and gives the hinds a better chance of increasing body condition prior to mating.
- Less calf injury as a result of being underfoot during the rut.
- Reduced growth rates for several weeks as a result of being so young.
- Dry conditions can compromise the feed quality for the young calves.
- More likely to get injury in calves due to yarding and handling.
The following are a few tips and tricks to ensure whichever weaning process you choose is as stress-free as possible:
- Pre-condition hinds and calves to the feed type and feeding practise you intend to use post-weaning (eg. strip grazing, crop grazing).
- Minimize any stressful or possible painful treatment of fawns at the time of weaning. Doing these well before or well after weaning is the best practice.
- If drenching is required at the time of weaning use Cervidae (the new on label deer product).
- Return your newly weaned fawns to the same paddock they were in prior to weaning and put hinds in a new paddock some distance away. Some people will also put a small number of “nanny” hinds (quiet dry hinds) in with the freshly weaned fawns to try and calm them down.
- Avoid weaning in bad weather and avoid using dogs if possible.
- Nutrition! In all things nutrition is crucial, ensure both weaned fawns and hinds are put on a high plane of nutrition post-weaning.
- Run fawns and hinds through the yards a few times to familiarize them with the yarding routine.
- For mixed breed herds weaning into mobs based on breed and size.
- Be patient! Don’t push stock too hard when moving to and from the yards. Fawns are often not familiar with gateways and races, let them move through and down these in their own time.
- Angela Butcher