Creep feeding 60 days prior to weaning should be considered for a couple of reasons. During the later stages of nursing milk production is decreasing. At the same time the calves are growing so there is a difference between available nutrients and what is needed to optimize calf growth. In addition, calves that have been creep fed, will usually wean easier because they are already accustomed to feeding equipment and eating feeds other than forages and milk.
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So much of what we do in the care and feeding of deer passes relatively unnoticed in the short term. But antler growth season is when “instant gratification” seekers can practically see results occur right before their eyes.
Growing at a rate of half an inch per day, antlers are some of the fastest growing tissues in the animal kingdom. That’s why it’s essential that deer consume the most nutritious diet of the year during antler growth season. Unfortunately, this is also the time when forage quality is typically low. However, there are things you can do to compensate.
As winter comes to an end, breeding season is officially over, testosterone levels drop and bucks begin shedding their antlers. Usually within a month, they’ll start growing their next set.
If the required nutrients are in short supply during the antler growth period, several things can happen—none of them good:
Antler growth rate can slow down. There’s only a small window of opportunity for antler growth (about 120 days a year), and an antler growing at the rate of 15 grams per day is obviously going to be smaller than one growing by 25 grams per day
Less dense antlers are more subject to breakage in rut fights
Desirable characteristics that affect Boone & Crockett Score, such as antler mass (volume and weight), number of points and beam circumference are negatively impacted by poor nutrition.
Growing a new set of antlers places huge demands on a buck’s body. Since a buck cannot eat enough in a day to mineralize his antlers, his body is forced to extract minerals from his ribs, sternum and skull and deposit them in the antlers. As a result, his bone density may actually be diminished by as much as 30 percent. So not only does a buck have to grow antlers, he has to replenish the minerals in his bones in order to be able to do the same thing again next year. (This is why mineral nutrition is so critical even after antlers are finished growing.)
Hardened antlers are high in minerals, mostly calcium (about 20 percent) and phosphorus (about 10 percent), in addition to a lot of trace minerals such as zinc, copper and manganese. Phosphorus, which is commonly deficient in many soils and plants throughout the US, is particularly critical. And what many people do not realize is that, even after they harden, antlers are still over 35% protein.
Because antler growth is low on the priority list of functions required to sustain life, antlers only receive “what’s left” of nutrients after life-sustaining needs have been met. In other words, deer will not even begin to grow antlers until they’ve regained body condition (This is why a year-round feeding program gives you such a distinct advantage.)
So what can you do to ensure the best possible outcome during the antler growth period? From now through August, try feeding a diet that is formulated especially for optimal growth, density and strength. A good option is Purina Mills® AntlerMax® Deer 20 product. This pelleted ration is 20-percent protein, highly palatable and should be fed free-choice to wild deer with access to good habitat or quality hay. Formulated with patented AntlerMax® Technology, it’s one of the most critical steps you can take right now to help deer attain their full potential—and satisfy your need for “instant gratification.”
Purina® Rabbit Chow™ Fibre3® Formula Natural AdvantEdge® is a natural*, corn-free rabbit feed that provides superior nutrition for rabbits of all ages. It helps younger rabbits get a great start and helps older rabbits maintain ideal body weight. Free of all fillers, preservatives and artificial colors, Fibre3® Formula Natural AdvantEdge® Rabbit Feed provides complete nutrition, giving your rabbits the feed they need for growth, health and longevity.
The Natural AdvantEdge®—superior, consistent, natural* nutrition FREE from all fillers, preservatives and artificial colors
High fiber—for normal digestive tract function and overall health
Corn-free—created especially for the unique needs of rabbits
Great for rabbits of all ages—high fiber content is ideal for both young bunnies to help them get a good start, and to help older rabbits maintain ideal body weight
Added lactobacillus, yeast and yucca shidigera—supports digestive health and aids in odor control
Complete, natural* nutrition—no additional supplements necessary. Great for rabbits of all ages and perfect to maintain a healthy body weight
High-quality plant proteins—loaded with natural nutrients found only in plants that optimize vitality and support immune function
Highly palatable—for proper intake and growth
Purina® FeedGuard® Nutrition System—stringent quality standards help ensure many of the industry’s highest quality ingredients available are used. It ensures greater nutritional consistency bag after bag and considers all key nutrients and their interactions with each other to better support overall rabbit health
As always, when changing your rabbits from one feeding program to another, make the change gradually, over a five- to seven-day period. Mix the new feed with the old, gradually increasing the amount of the new feed (it’s always important to allow time for the rabbits’ intestinal flora to adjust to any new feed.) Continue to feed at the same time each day. Clean the feeding dish daily so uneaten food does not become stale and moldy. And always provide plenty of clean, fresh, cool water to rabbits at all times.
*with added vitamins, minerals, and trace nutrients
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