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Topics : Livestock & Wildlife : Forage Mixtures to Minimize Deer Damage

Forage Mixtures to Minimize Deer Damage

Applied Questions

To what extent do deer damage forages in central Pennsylvania?

Forages protected from deer feeding averaged 1660 lb/acre more DM yield than their unprotected counterparts (Table 1). The greatest amount of deer feeding occurred in pure alfalfa and the least in pure orchardgrass. Forage quality was not affected by deer grazing. Weeds began to invade the plots in the second year of the study and were more severe in the unprotected than protected plots. Deer feeding resulted in average economic losses of $80 and $28/acre for pure alfalfa and pure orchardgrass, respectively.

Do deer selectively graze one forage species over another?

Deer selectively grazed alfalfa out of the alfalfa-grass mixtures and fed more on plots which contained timothy than those which contained orchardgrass. Averaged across all mixtures, alfalfa made up 35% of the total yield in the protected but only 19% in the unprotected mixed plots. Average yield reductions, as a result of deer feeding, were 1507 and 1102 lb/acre (excluding weed yield in 1996) for treatments containing timothy and orchardgrass, respectively (Table 1). Consequently, the economic losses associated with deer feeding were greater for mixtures containing timothy than orchardgrass (Table 2).

In a field where deer generally feed, are particular forage species or forage mixtures better than others?

In areas unprotected from deer feeding, pure orchardgrass and alfalfa-orchardgrass mixtures had greater total yields than pure alfalfa (Table 2). Weed infestation in the second year of the study was greatest in pure alfalfa which had the greatest deer feeding and least in pure orchardgrass which had the least deer feeding in the first year of the study. Forage quality was not affected by deer feeding within the unprotected plots but was affected by the proportion of alfalfa to grass in the mixture. Alfalfa-orchardgrass mixtures had greater economic returns than pure alfalfa but only when alfalfa was seeded at 50% of the mixture (Table 2).