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Thread: To Feed Or Not To Feed

  1. #1

    To Feed Or Not To Feed

    With this spell of prolonged bad weather I remember a meeting I attended once at which a "learned" professor stated that the overpopulation of red deer on some highland estates could be righted by the simple banning of artificial feeding of wild deer. The deer ,he said, would very quickly reach a population level that the land could support and the burden of too many mouths on the ground would be solved.
    You can imagine that this stirred up a very heated debate and found little support in the room. Most keepers said that without feeding they would lose too many hinds therefore be unable to keep and replenish enough mature stags for visitors so a lot of estates would find it hard economically and keepers would be laid-off.
    This is not a new arguement as I have an excellent book on red deer written by a very clever man in 1922. In it he states that the three enemies of having good quality trophy heads (that is what they aimed for in those days) was not shooting enough hinds,fencing and feeding. He went on to explain why and very well thought out were his arguements.
    But now with large-scale commercial forestry, the expansion of the national sheep flock and the shrinkage and break-up of many large estates do we have the luxury of not feeding. The great deer migrations from East to West and down into the Glen bottoms have due to fencing been consigned to history. No-one now tolerates bands of visiting deer and even in my short tenure of this ground I have seem miles of fencing going up and "wandering" deer killed in their hundreds.
    This year I took the decision to put out feedblocks. Yes it has been exceptionally bad weather and I may not do it another year but already I have noticed a change. Provided the blocks are sited in a sheltered,quiet area and are strung off the ground to prevent badgers crapping all over them , the deer stay near the blocks and dont waste energy raking around for what little they can dig for. I now have a better idea than before of what numbers I have in the woods and have seen some old favorites (stags) I thought I had lost. All good so far.
    My neighbors have always fed and to some extent are encouraging me to carry on. I will see how things pan out.
    What do you all think? David

  2. #2

  3. #3
    It's a question without a simple answer. Feeding is good for the beasts no doubt but then we have the situation where we once again mess with the natural order of things but like you said with fencing we do already.

    Regular feeding will certainly change the behaviour of the deer and seeing them through the winter although good result for the stalkers is not always a feeling shared by crop growing landowners who may be near by.

    As top animals that have a great value to me personally I'd feed them no questions especially up north in Sutherland where the weather really bites ass at this time of year..

  4. #4
    It's a question without a simple answer. Feeding is good for the beasts no doubt but then we have the situation where we once again mess with the natural order of things but like you said with fencing we do already.

    Regular feeding will certainly change the behaviour of the deer and seeing them through the winter although good result for the stalkers is not always a feeling shared by crop growing landowners who may be near by.

    As top animals that have a great value to me personally I'd feed them no questions especially up north in Sutherland where the weather really bites ass at this time of year..

  5. #5
    My thoughts on this are that you need to consider whether you can afford to keep on feeding once you start and whether you can feed enough to make a positive difference rather than a negative one. Do a search on Baronsdown sanctuary to learn the effects of attracting deer to areas where feed is provided but not in sufficient quantity or quality. I speak as one who has no knowledge of Scottish conditions but I do have to make a living from my farm deer and know just how much they eat. I would also have thought that you would be feeding some deer who are unlikely to make it through the winter anyway, thereby wasting resources.

    There is also a great difference between feeding to keep alive and feeding to perform, however you choose to define performance. It may be to produce a calf of a respectable weight or for a stag to grow better antlers.

    I think you have asked something which will have as many answers as people prepared to offer them. Even if you feed for some years to come, given the fact that each year is different you may never really know what effect your efforts are having.

    Do let us know what you decide to do please and some feedback later on the results would be good. Best of luck.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by cyberstag
    Do a search on Baronsdown sanctuary to learn the effects of attracting deer to areas where feed is provided but not in sufficient quantity or quality.
    Video report here:



    Not good viewing and this is from one of the mildest/best feeding areas of the country for wild deer. However, this isn't just a supplimental feeding issue, there are major concerns regarding encouraging deer onto the land leading to severe overstocking and the politics will of course always be there.

  7. #7
    I've heard that there is a much higher incidence of bovine TB in the wild deer around the LACS reserve.

  8. #8
    There are vested interests that would like to have such anecdotal 'evidence' find a wider audience. I would think that if bovine TB infection in the deer were proven to be the norm then the CA and hunt people would be shouting it from the rooftops - forget badgers, the deer and the LACS would be up for a major cull! The reports that do surface from time-to-time have mentioned the occasional carcase exhibiting signs of (non-specific) 'TB' in addition to the general poor condition of all.

    From a number of years of stalking the estate immediately abutting one side of Baronsdown, what I can state is that it was the only area in which we encountered reds in less than excellent condition, some with examples of liver fluke and a very few exhibiting signs of suspected avian TB, (inconclusive), with lesions and swollen lymph nodes.

    Interesting that the BDS highlighted the following in their submission to DEFRA :

    "2.6.6 As there is clear evidence that artificial feeding of wild deer significantly increases the transmission of TB, the BDS recommends that this practice should be strongly discouraged in all circumstances"

    http://www.bds.org.uk/response_to_defra.html

    I suspect that it was aimed at the operators of Baronsdown and similar sanctuaries rather than the the person who provides 'his' deer with supplimental feed in very severe weather conditions.

  9. #9

    TB in Wild Deer

    Sorry if this is off topic but has there been any actual CONFIRMED cases of mammalian TB in the wild deer of that area or is it just suspected? I would have thought that if infection with this dangerous, notifiable pathogen was confirmed in the herd the State Veterinary Service would be howling round there in large numbers. There are many reasons for deer to be found moribund and in poor condition especially when herds run in large nunbers on pastures as seems to be the case here. Diseases of intensification such as lungworm begin to become a factor. This was researched even in extensive deer in the mid 80's where deer congregated in large numbers in low-lying fields where they were being fed silage. Deer in their first two grazing seasons were most at risk and on one estate died in huge numbers . This loss of the younger end of the population took a big toll on the overall balance of the herd. David
    ps avian TB has no effect on the health of ruminants

  10. #10

    Re: TB in Wild Deer

    Quote Originally Posted by David Brown
    Sorry if this is off topic but has there been any actual CONFIRMED cases of mammalian TB in the wild deer of that area or is it just suspected? I would have thought that if infection with this dangerous, notifiable pathogen was confirmed in the herd the State Veterinary Service would be howling round there in large numbers.
    Got it in one!

    Exactly the case. And instead of actually getting on and having meanigful discussions and taking action that would benefit the wild red deer in that part of the valley, it all descends into points scoring and politics involving the LACS, RSPCA, CA, Stag Hunt/Supporters and Uncle Tom Cobley and all! Truths, half-truths and smoke and mirrors are the order of the day.

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