During 1991/93, young sambar (5 months old) and red deer (7 months old) were confined indoors in individual pens in New Zealand and fed a pelleted concentrate diet (12 MJ ME/kgDM; 2·9% N) ad libitum for 21 months. Seasonal patterns of voluntary feed intake (VF1), liveweight gain (LWG), scrotal circumference and plasma concentrations of prolactin (PRL), luteinizing hormone (LH), testosterone (T) and progesterone (P) were compared using five stags and three hinds of each species.
Red deer showed a strong pattern of seasonality, with high VFI and LWG in summer and low VF1 and LWG in winter and with peak plasma T and scrotal circumference in stags in early autumn. Compared with red deer, sambar showed weaker seasonal patterns of VFI and LWG, with maximum values in autumn and minimumvalues in spring. Over a complete 12-month cycle, sambar deer gained similar amounts of liveweight to red deer but consumed substantially less feed, thus demonstrating a more efficient conversion of feed tobodyweight. Metabolizable energy (ME) requirements for both maintenance and gain were substantially lower for sambar than for red deer. Scrotal circumference and plasma T values in sambar stags attained their highest values during late autumn, winter and spring, but with a lower magnitude than peak values for red stags. Plasma PRL concentrations were seasonal in both species, with highest values in summer and lowest values in winter. Rapid increase of plasma P was first detected in red hinds in autumn and sambar hinds in spring when they weighed 96 and 90 kg respectively, and were aged 17 and 14 months. Rapid increase of plasma T was first detected in red stags in early autumn and sambar stags in mid-autumn whenthey weighed 117 and 101 kg, and were aged 16 and 15 months respectively.
It was concluded that sambar deer had endogenous cycles of VFI, body growth and hormone secretion, which were of lesser amplitude and with different seasonality from those of red deer. Young sambar deer were more efficient feed converters than red deer, and attained sexual maturity at an earlier age and lower liveweight.