Last week saw the Park and Garden team commence winter feeding for the Deer herd. Now that rutting has finished, the bucks need this supplementary feeding, after their exertions during the rut, to they improve their condition in readiness for winter. The Does also need this extra feeding to boost their condition whilst they are carrying fawns, assuming the bucks have done their job of course! Feeding for the sheep will commence in early December.
The deer are fed haylage and fodder beet, though the beet will be replaced by deer nuts in the coming weeks. Feeding is carried out daily as an optimal way of ensuring the animals get fed consistently, do not overfeed and it also minimises feed wastage.The haylage and beet are kept in an area inaccessible to the animals and the daily amount, a level load of beet and thin layer of haylage, is loaded onto our Gator vehicle.
Feeding is carried out in two places: WestPark where 80% of the feed is provided for the main herd, and FrontPark where 20% is provided for the bucks.
In West Park the haylage is loosely deposited in a line at the start of the feeding area and the beet is then deposited, from the back of the slowly moving Gator, in a line approximately 200 metres long from the feeding start point. This ensures that there is plenty of space in which the herd can feed and helps conservation by preventing the severe poaching of the ground by the animals’ hooves that would result from many animals feeding in a smaller area. The feeding area is varied regularly to prevent poaching due to continuous use of the same area.
The deer are becoming used to the daily feeds and will often start feeding while the beet is still being distributed and it only takes a short while after the food has been placed for them to all to gather round.
The bucks in FrontPark are much braver and will come very close to feed whilst the beet is being distributed.
Last week, the master bucks where over the river in Hill Park but they soon came running, and swimming, when the feed was put out and they saw the younger bucks eating. It was quite a sight…!
John, Park Volunteer