Title:  Effect of phosphorus supplementation on antler development of yearling whitetail deer.
Author(s): Cowan, R. L. and P. A. Reitz.
Year: 1990
Abstract: In yearling deer, skeletal growth needs compete for nutrients with needs for antler development. This study was designed to determine the effect of supplemental dietary phosphorus (P) on antler development of yearling whitetail deer (Odocoioleus virginianus) consuming a basal diet containing about 0.2%P, a level considered minimal for normal growth. Actual levels of P in the basal ration as fed were 0.18% for the first 84 days of the trial (commencing May 5) and 0.22% for the ensuing 43 days. Supplemented diets contained 0.28 and 0.40% P for the same respective periods. Seven yearling male deer fed the P-supplemental diet grew antlers averaging weights of 202 gm, 85 cm total length, and 6.4 points. Eight control deer averaged 106 gm antler weight, 53 cm total length, and 4.4 points. There were no significant differences in specific gravity of antlers, or in blood levels of Ca and P. Supplemented deer gained an average of 0.12 kg/day, consuming 1.91 kg of feed containing 6.1 gm of P. Control deer gained 0.081 kg/day, consuming 1.39 kg of feed containing 2.8 gm of P. Onset of change to winter pelage and rub out of antlers occurred an average of two weeks earlier in the supplemented group. Diminished rate of gain for the control group may indicate that the minimum dietary P level for growing deer was between .18 and .28%. Improved antler development of the supplemented deer indicates that yearling bucks in the wild may benefit from P supplements, as much of the browse available during the antler growing season contains less than .18% P.

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