A guide to farming Fallow Deer. It’s important to understand that these graceful animals can be shy and timid but can become paranoid and panicked at the slightest provocation.
- Male Fallow Deer - Buck
- Female Fallow Deer – Doe
- Young Fallow Deer – Fawn
Mature Fallow bucks can reach a weight of 90-100kg and shoulder height of 85cm to a metre. Doe’s on the other hand are considerably lighter at between 35-45kg and a shoulder height of 70-85cm. Fawn birth weights are around 3-4.5kg.
Fallow deer come in a variety of different coat colours, ranging from black, white, menil and common (brown with white or cream spotting). Less common are cream, sandy, sooty dun, blue roan, silver grey and dark dun.
Fallow deer adapt to many different climatic/farming environments. Minimal intervention is required once the basics infrastructure is in place. The daily management of these hardy animals is fairly easy care with minimal handling requirements.
Understand and appreciate the animal's nature. Having yards that are predictable and simple to navigate will allow the deer to flow more easily through the yards Putting the deer into smaller and manageable groups makes handling a lot easier.
Deer like to have routine so don’t force or pressure them in places they don’t want to go. Fallow deer like having the structures of light and dark pens. Try to avoid over-crowding as this gets the animals aggravated and stressed. Confidence and firmness are key to handling deer. When in the pens relax and move with the flow of the deer and try not to expose yourself by keeping to the walls.
Patience is key when managing deer around the property as in the yards. Fallow deer are fast movers with the ability to leap over 2m high. It is advised that the holding/receiving pen has a minimum height of 2.4m. The entrance into the main working area needs to be roofed and darkened. The walls of the pens should preferably be of solid ply construction with no projections that may injure the deer. Doors need to be flush with the wall not showing gaps when closed. Holding the deer in dark rooms while waiting to be worked on keeps them quiet and calm.
Light is used to lead them into the controlled tunnel which acts like a small race which holds 2-3 animals with a padded opening on one side. Here you can access the deer head and neck for safe handling for the purpose of tagging, TB testing, drenching etc. Leading away from the tunnel there are drafting gates to facilitate separating of mobs when necessary. For safe removal of fallow bucks antlers it is advised that the use of a hydraulic crush/drop floor crush to control the strength and power of the fallow bucks.
It is strongly recommended that you approach local deer farmers in your area to gain knowledge and understanding of a deer operation to assist you in developing your farm layout. Races should be no more than 3-4 metres wide leading into the yards.
Easy flowing corners help assist the flow into the yards or baffles in a straight race. This gives the illusion that they are escaping from the musterer. In the last few metres before entering the yards where there is a higher pressure area, wooden rails or scrim helps assist the smooth flow into the yards.
All boundary fences require 1.9m high netting with 2m high post spaced at 5-6m to provide a secure perimeter fence. Fallow deer are more likely to want to go under the fence but also have the ability to easily jump a 2m fence if under pressure.
Depending on the size of your mob of deer you plan to graze on your property, having the appropriate number of paddocks gives you a satisfactory grazing rotation system. Also, taking into consideration the different groups of animals you plan to have on your property will determine the final design.
Fallow Deer breeding season starts around 15th April to about the 10th of May. Fallow does have the natural ability to synchronise themselves to achieve around 85 percent conception rate to the first service.
Does cycle every 21 days. 30-40 does per adult buck is recommended, then introducing a back-up buck after 2 cycles. Then removing the bucks after 4 cycles to prevent late fawns from being born. During the mating season bucks are very aggressive towards one another so it is advisable to keep bucks some distance from each other. Younger mating bucks can get intimidated by older bucks nearby.
The gestation length for fallow does is approx. 234 days with fawning beginning around early December. The majority of fawns are born around Christmas. Fawns normally weight around 4 kg at birth and prefer to have access to cover where the does hide them for protection.
Minimal intervention is recommended over the fawning period.
Fallow deer thrive on high quality ryegrass and clover pasture.
Fallow are less able to cope with rank pastures. During the colder months supplementary feeds like good quality hay/balage/lucerne hay also barley/oats may be fed out. They are even partial to sheep nuts. Where winter crops are grown, fallow deer readily take to kale and swedes.
Regular feeding of nuts helps quieten down your herd of deer for ease of management. It is also recommended to provide shade/shelter for security in the form of tussock grass, strategic tree plantings in the corner of paddocks.
Shelter belts provide excellent cover in adverse weather conditions.
Antlers serve the purpose in sexual display and territory defence. Shape and style of the antlers is determined by the genetics.
Mass and size is determined by feeding. Antlers are only grown by males. They are a temporary bony structure arising from specialized regions on the skull, the pedicles. The new growth is called velvet. This cycle begins with the old antler being cast in late September/October and new growth beginning almost immediately.
On a mature buck it takes about 140 days for the antler to reach full develop into a palmated antler. In its first years growth on a young buck it will only develop into a single spike of 4 to 10 inches long and as the buck increases with age there is dramatic growth in antler size and palmation development.
These can reach 30 inches plus in length and with large multi pointed palms reaching over 8 inches in width.
Well grown weaner bucks should reach live-weights of about 45-50kg at slaughter at 12-15 months, carcass weight being 25-30kg.
Females are considerable lighter at the same age. With fallow deer having a smaller body mass they are more efficient converters of grass into meat so in turn have a high output per hectare.
Fallow deer meat is far superior to other deer species in respect to their muscle cuts. This makes for idea portion sizes and with its great taste and finer grained meat gives you a wide variety of menu options.