Don’t feed the deer

Warrington LowellDrove past a neighborhood’s house last night. Eight deer eating corn! They’re feeding the deer in our neighborhood!!!

Corn, especially this time of year, CANNOT BE DIGESTED by deer. Lots of articles on this including a chapter in Deerland. Knock on their door and tell them about acidosis.

The problem is that deer digestion is a finely tuned physiological process. Just the right combination of microorganisms, enzymes, and pH enable deer to digest a normal winter diet of woody vegetation. When offered a sudden supply of corn, a deer’s digestive system doesn’t have time to adjust to a high carbohydrate diet. The result can be acute acidosis followed by death within 72 hours.

At the time of death these individuals can appear normal and well fed. It’s just that they cannot digest the corn. Within six hours, corn alters the environment in the rumen. It turns the rumen acidic and destroys the microbes needed for normal digestion.

Not all deer die immediately from acidosis. Its effects vary with the age and health of the individual. Some may simply slow down, get clumsy, and become easy prey to speeding traffic and hungry coyotes.

It takes deer two to four weeks of feeding on a new food source to establish populations of microbes necessary to digest the new food. It can’t happen in just a few days during a snowstorm. And healthy individuals that might survive in the short term often succumb to complications weeks later.

To read more, check out the full article, Farm & Dairy, Thursday, February 18, 2010 by Scott Shalaway

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