Red deer are now being farmed for meal production on an intensive scale. They are manageable, adaptable and healthy animals, and. with care and good nutrition, they become far more productive than wild deer.
Their digestive efficiency resembles that of sheep. Productive activities caking and lactation, fattening and antler growth occur in summer when food is plentiful and depend on endocrine and metabolic cycles entrained by day length. Dietary energy needs of deer are similar to those of cattle but higher than those of sheep: however, because young deer store little fat, they produce lean meat as efficiently as sheep.
Deer produce rich milk: the growth of sucking calves reflects the supply of nutrients available to their dams. In winter, calves benefit from shelter: nonetheless, their growth and appetite decline, even when day length is experimentally lengthened. While good nutrition improves winter growth, this is costly: furthermore, improved winter growth is followed by somewhat poorer growth during the succeeding summer. Slaughter of calves at 6 months of age rather than 16 months may allow greater efficiency of meat production.
Deer carry 50%more muscle than sheep, much of it in their well-priced haunch. Cahes deposit little fat until half grown: adults lose their summer fat during the rut and winter. The lean character of venison well matches modern consumer requirements.