Alfalfa Bales for Deer: Nutrition Benefits and Feeding Guidelines

Alfalfa, referred to as “nature’s multivitamin”, is a nutritious feeding option known across the agricultural world. Typically cultivated as a forage crop, the plant has almost universal application, especially in the world of deer farming and hunting. Alfalfa bales, in particular, have proven beneficial in nutritional planning for deer, especially during cold winter months. In this extensive guide, we delve into the specifics, exploring the importance, benefits, considerations, and best practices for using alfalfa bales for deer.

Understanding Alfalfa and Its Nutritional Value

Alfalfa, scientifically known as Medicago Sativa, is a perennial foraging plant native to warmer temperate climates. Often called Lucerne in other parts of the world, it’s highly versatile and rich in nutrients. It serves as an excellent source of vitamins A, E, and K, and a host of essential minerals.

The Nutritional Breakdown

Alfalfa is packed with over 15% crude protein and approximately 30% fibre, making it an excellent dietary supplement for deer. Other vital components in its nutritional makeup include:

  • Calcium
  • Phosphorus
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium

Benefits of Alfalfa Bales for Deer

Nutritional Boost

Deer require a balanced diet to thrive, particularly during the hard winter months or periods of intensive antler growth. Providing alfalfa as a dietary supplement not only fulfills their caloric needs but also boosts their overall health and vitality.

Year-Round Availability

Alfalfa can be harvested up to four times a year, ensuring year-round availability. When properly dried and stored in bales, it invariably retains the majority of its nutritional value, thereby remaining fresh and palatable for deer.

Alluring Aroma & Taste

The sweet and alluring aroma of alfalfa makes it especially enticing to deer. Its digestibility and palatability make it a favorite among deer, making it an excellent attractant for wild deer as well as a reliable dietary supplement for farm-raised deer.

Considerations When Using Alfalfa Bales for Deer

Timing is Key

The optimal timing for introducing alfalfa bales into a deer’s diet depends primarily on their condition and the time of year. For example, during the antler growth period, the nutritional requirements of bucks increase significantly. They also need adequate nutrition to survive the harsh winter months. Implementing alfalfa bales during these times can help meet these boosted nutritional needs.

Proper Storage

To retain the nutritional value of alfalfa, proper storage is crucial. Bales should be stored in a cool, dry place away from pests. Bales that have signs of mold or a musty smell should be discarded to avoid illness among deer.

Best Practices for Feeding Deer with Alfalfa Bales

While using alfalfa bales for deer has many benefits, it’s important to adhere to a few guidelines to ensure you’re optimally boosting your deer’s nutrition.

Moderation is Crucial

Though nutritious, alfalfa should not be the only food source for deer. It’s best used as a supplement to a balanced diet, comprising different forages and grains. Too much alfalfa can lead to indigestion or other digestive complications in deer.

Proper Placement

Place alfalfa bales in areas where deer frequently feed, making sure it’s accessible yet safe from potential threats or harmful elements. Also, placing the bales in separate feeding sites can help avoid competition among deer.

Monitor Deer Health

Watch for any changes in your deer’s behavior or condition after introducing alfalfa into their diet. If health issues arise, consult a veterinarian.

Final Thoughts

Without a doubt, alfalfa bales serve as an invaluable nutritional supplement for deer, especially during periods of intensive antler growth or during testing winter months. However, it’s crucial to use alfalfa bales as just one part of a balanced, varied diet, and to always monitor the health and behavior of your deer for optimal results.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it good to feed deer alfalfa hay?

Yes, feeding deer alfalfa hay can be beneficial for their health. Alfalfa is a high-protein forage that provides essential nutrients for deer, especially during periods of limited food availability. It helps sustain deer throughout the year, aiding in their growth, development, and overall well-being.

Can deer digest alfalfa hay?

Yes, deer can digest alfalfa hay. Deer possess a complex digestive system that enables them to consume and break down a variety of plant materials, including alfalfa. The digestive process in deer involves fermentation in the rumen, which allows them to extract nutrients from fibrous feeds like alfalfa.

Is it OK to feed deer alfalfa in winter?

Feeding deer alfalfa in winter is generally acceptable and can be beneficial. In winter months, when natural forage becomes scarce and of lower quality, alfalfa hay can provide the necessary nutrition and energy to help deer survive the harsh conditions. However, it’s important to supplement their diet with other feeds to ensure a balanced intake.

What type of hay is best for deer?

Various types of hay can be suitable for deer, but the quality and nutritional content should be considered. A mix of legume and grass hays, such as alfalfa, clover, and timothy hay, can provide a balanced diet for deer. These hays typically have higher protein content, making them beneficial for deer’s growth and antler development.

Can alfalfa hay contribute to deer health issues?

While alfalfa hay is generally beneficial for deer, excessive feeding of alfalfa can lead to certain health concerns. Overconsumption can cause digestive issues such as bloat, which is characterized by the accumulation of gas in the rumen. Therefore, it’s essential to provide a balanced diet and monitor the deer’s consumption levels to prevent potential health problems.

Can feeding deer alfalfa affect their natural foraging behavior?

Feeding deer alfalfa hay, or any supplemental feed, may alter their natural foraging patterns to some extent. If deer become accustomed to relying on human-provided feed, they may spend less time and effort searching for natural forage. However, offering alfalfa hay in moderation should not significantly impact their innate foraging behavior.

How much alfalfa hay should I feed deer?

The amount of alfalfa hay to feed deer varies based on factors like deer population density and the availability of natural forage. As a general guideline, provide only a small portion of their overall diet, ideally not exceeding 20% of their daily intake. This helps prevent imbalances, encourages foraging, and ensures a more natural diet for deer.

Should I feed alfalfa hay during fawning season?

Feeding alfalfa hay during fawning season can be beneficial, as it provides the additional nutrients required by nursing does. Alfalfa’s high protein content aids in milk production, allowing does to adequately nurse their fawns. However, it’s important to monitor the feeding area to avoid attracting predators that may pose a threat to fawns.

Can deer develop dependency on alfalfa hay?

Deer can become habituated to the presence of supplemental feeding, including alfalfa hay. Over time, they may rely on this feed source, particularly if it’s consistently available. To avoid creating dependency, it’s advisable to provide alfalfa hay as a supplement rather than a primary food source, ensuring deer still rely on their natural foraging instincts.

Can deer eat moldy alfalfa hay?

No, deer should not be fed moldy alfalfa hay or any moldy forage. Moldy feed can contain toxins that may be harmful to deer’s health. Feeding moldy hay may increase the risk of digestive issues and other health problems. Always ensure the alfalfa hay provided to deer is fresh, free of mold, and of good quality.

Hi! I'm Brian, a born-and-raised outdoorsman with a lifelong passion for hunting. I've spent countless seasons in the field, tracking game and perfecting my craft. Over the years, I've had the privilege of hunting in some of the most beautiful and rugged landscapes this world has to offer.
I've learned a lot along the way and I'm always eager to share my experiences with others. I firmly believe in the importance of ethical hunting practices and and sustainable use of our natural resources, and I do my best to promote these principles in all of my adventures. Hunting is more than just a hobby for me, it's a way of life.
Brian Clark
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