The effects of date of weaning, weaning live weight, autumn grazing management and level and pattern of winter nutrition in relation to summer grazing on the live-weight gain of farmed red deer calves to 16 months of age were tested in three experiments.
In experiment 1, the effect of two weaning live weights (37 and 46 kg) in September and two levels of autumn and winter nutrition were examined with 48 calves. In October, live-weight gains were positively related to sward height and herbage mass. The calves lost live weight in November. Compensatory live-weight gains of 28 g/day occurred at summer pasture after the low level of winter nutrition. Weaning live weight had a major influence on live weight at 16 months of age.
In experiment 2, the effects of maintenance, ad libitum and intermediate treatments were compared using 50 calves given a complete diet in winter. The intermediate treatment consisted of a maintenance followed by an ad libitum level of feeding. Compensatory live-weight gains of 49 g/day occurred at pasture with the intermediate treatment achieving complete live-weight compensation at 16 months of age.
In experiment 3, the effect of two weaning dates (19 September and 14 November) on live-weight gain of calves and on the date of subsequent calving of hinds were compared with 34 lactating hinds. There was no difference in live-weight gain of calves between weaning dates but the subsequent calving date was delayed by 8 days from those hinds weaning in November.
A management system is advocated with weaning in September, housing in November after grazing sown swards greater than 6 cm, a pattern of a low followed by a high level of nutrition in winter and the summer grazing of sown swards maintained at 4 to 6 cm.