Post calving environment

Post calving environment

Calves are heavily reliant on the lactational output of their dams for their nutrition over their first 3-4 months of life.  
The quality of lactation influences pre-weaning calf growth, the period of greatest growth potential in the animal’s life.

If lactational outputs are compromised through poor nutrition, this will have consequences not only on calf weaning weights but can also influence other aspect of their performance throughout life. For example, young hinds may fail to enter puberty as 16 month-old animals because of long-term effects of poor pre-weaning growth on puberty live-weight thresholds (see Puberty).

There is sometimes a compromise between providing hinds with a good calving environment (i.e. plenty of rank pasture cover for birthing) and subsequently providing hinds good nutritional environment to support optimal lactation (i.e. shorter highly palatable and digestible pasture). However, with proactive management there are generally ways around this issue.  Rank pasture is good for the calf but not the hind, so a compromise is to leave strips of rank pasture, but maintain the rest of the paddock in a good vegetative state for high quality pasture for the hind.

After about two weeks from birth calves will generally tag alongside mum rather than hide out. It is at this stage that hinds and calves can be safely moved to new paddocks. However, before doing so ensure that all hinds have completed calving and that all calves are at foot: it is possible that late-born calves are still hiding out and may be left behind.

Moving hinds with calves at foot
The best approach to moving hinds and calves is to simply leave the gates open to the new paddock and leave the deer to find their way there. Hinds will then quietly guide their calves through unfamiliar gateways. However, before shutting the gates, check to ensure there are no calves left behind in the calving paddock.

After a few moves, calves will become accustomed to gateways and the process of rotating hinds and calves around paddocks becomes easier and quicker. In this way, optimum feeding management can be implemented to ensure the hind lactates well and that the calf has every chance of rapid growth.

For more on feed availability during this period, see Lactation.