Avoiding problems around fawning
Many problems around fawning can be attributed to deer behaviour and the environment which the hinds are exposed to during this time.
Of all the species we farm, deer are probably the most sensitive to social stress and disturbance disrupting reproduction, at both ends of the process!
In general, hinds can be set-stocked one to two weeks prior to fawning onto paddocks that they are already familiar with. However, newly introduced hinds may need to be set-stocked onto the area even earlier (one to two months prior to fawning) to allow them to settle into their new environment.
This reduces behaviours like fence-pacing around fawning that indicates hinds are not settled or comfortable with where they have been put to fawn. Fence pacing can also be due to social stress; trying to get away from unfamiliar/bullying hinds, or trying to get back with mates who’ve been put in another paddock. It is very important that hinds are not subjected to sudden social change (introduction of new deer) within or near allocated paddocks prior to or at fawning.
Lack of hiding places and/or shelter for fawns can also increase mis-mothering and perinatal deaths.
Fawning at a low stocking rate (six hinds or less per Ha) has been demonstrated on many farms to have an immediate positive impact on fawn survival. If fawning paddocks are likely to be near buildings or civilisation, then hinds should be well familiarised with humans and machinery noise. Feeding out is a great way of accustoming deer to the presence of people before fawning and prior to weaning.
Regular monitoring of hinds, e.g. for calving difficulty, over fawning is also important but avoid disturbing or unsettling the hinds. Disruption of the birthing process and/or the hind-fawn bond in the first few hours of life can cause great losses on farms where people get too close to fawning hinds.
Sometimes, the fawn may be poorly presented in the birth canal but this is fairly rare.
Over the winter, hinds should maintain body condition unless they are light in condition. If pregnant, the lighter hinds should be separated out after scanning and preferentially fed. If pregnant hinds are in very good condition in early winter, it is acceptable to allow them to lose a few kilograms. As spring approaches body weight can increase again with increasing pasture availability. Deliberately underfeeding hinds in an effort to prevent ‘overfatness’ can be counterproductive because the decreased energy intake can delay fawning date. BCS 4 and 4.5 hinds deliver their calves just as speedily as lighter hinds, and will milk better and get back in fawn faster.
Lactating hinds need around twice as much energy as a non-lactating hind. Therefore, high quality feed is required for adequate intakes. Although some condition score loss is expected, particularly in hinds producing high milk volume and good weaner growth rates, try to avoid hinds dropping below a BCS 2.5 to ensure that mating performance in the autumn is not compromised.
If you have any queries concerning fawning do not hesitate to give your local veterinarian a call.