Lactating red deer (Cervus elaphus) hinds and
their calves were rotationally grazed on Lotus
corniculatus or perennial ryegrass/white clover pasture at an
allowance of 12 kg DM/hind/day
during summer 1996 in Palmerston North, New Zealand. Half the hinds
suckled pure red deer calves
and half suckled hybrid (0·25 elk[ratio ]0·75 red deer) calves.
Measurements were made of the diet selected,
voluntary feed intake of the hinds and liveweight changes of the hinds
Lotus corniculatus and perennial ryegrass constituted
c. 90% of green material in the diet selected
on the respective forages. Total nitrogen (N) content and organic matter
digestibility (OMD) were
higher for Lotus corniculatus than for perennial ryegrass/white
clover pasture. Lotus corniculatus
contained 21 g condensed tannin (CT)/kg dry matter (DM),
whilst pasture contained only traces of CT (1·6 g/kg DM).
Hinds grazing Lotus corniculatus tended to have higher
voluntary feed intake, and calf liveweight
gain (485 v. 399 g/day) and weaning weight
(52·6 v. 48·1 kg) were greater than for deer grazing
perennial ryegrass/white clover pasture. Hybrid calves grew
faster than pure red deer calves
(P<0·01), with hybrid calves grazing lotus having
very high liveweight gain (c. 520 g/day).
Liveweight gain of hinds grazing Lotus corniculatus also
tended to be higher (91 v. 20 g/day) than for
hinds grazing perennial ryegrass/white clover pasture. CT was
bound more strongly during chewing
by red deer than had been found in comparable studies with
sheep and the nutritional significance
of this is discussed. Nutritional reasons for the superior performance
deer grazing Lotus corniculatus are discussed.