Title:  Economic Optimization of Forage and Nutrient Availability during Stress Periods for White-tailed Deer
Author(s): Michael P. Glow - School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences Auburn University; Stephen S. Ditchkoff - School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences Auburn University
Year: 2016
Abstract: Providing a sufficient quantity of nutritional forage should be an integral component of any white-tailed deer management plan that aims to maximize deer condition and quality. Deer managers attempt to meet the nutritional needs of their herd through some combination of habitat management, food plot production, and/or supplemental feed provisioning. However, nutritional demands of deer, and forage quality and abundance fluctuate throughout the year, creating nutritional stress periods, as well as a dilemma for managers regarding how to maximize the nutritional plane of their herd while minimizing cost. We measured the crude protein (CP) available to deer from 2 primary sources (mature pine habitat managed with prescribed fire and ladino clover food plots) during 3 nutritionally stressful periods for deer (peak of antler development, third trimester of gestation, and peak of lactation) on a 640-acre enclosure located in east-central Alabama. Nutritional constraint models were used to estimate the amount of biomass available at 10-18% CP, which was then used to calculate the total nutrient output of the entire property if food plots hypothetically ranged from 0-5% of the total property area. Biomass availability at 16% CP in June ranged from 18.7 - 114.9 lbs/ac, was similar in July, and ranged from 1.4 - 27.1 lbs/ac in September. We discuss these data in the context of different management strategies to determine how managers can maximize the nutritional availability of their land for deer in a cost-effective and efficient manner.

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