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Red Deer production. 2. Growth and meat production

INRA Prod. Anim., 2 (2), 105-116.


INRA Theix, Laboratoire de la production et du métabolisme minéral des petits ruminants, 63122 Ceyrat

Growth and development of farmed red deer, from birth to maturity, as well as carcass characteristics are presented in this paper. The young calf weighting 8 to 9 kg at birth will sustain a high daily growth rate (250 to 450 g/d) during the suckling period depending on it’s dam nutrition. Growth also varies with fawn’s sex (+ 20 to + 50 g/d for males) and birth weight (+ 1 kg at birth induces 5 to 14 g/d extra daily gain ). Calves can be weaned in September or November, before or after the rut period. Daily growth rate, reduced by weaning ( -20 to -50 g/d, according to hind’s milk production) remains close to 200 g/d until late November and decreases from December to February (0 to 100 g/d). Concentrate feeding, up to 1 kg/d, can reduce winter growth check but after turning out to pasture, control animals gain + 50 g/d more than the supplemented ones. When 16-18 months old, body weight is 70-75 % of mature weight for females but 50 % only for males. Hinds reach mature weight when 4 to 5 years old but stags’growth is sustained until 8 to 9 years old. Killing out percentage of farmed red deer is quite high (54-56 %) with a high muscle (70 % ) and low fat (5 to 9 %) content in the carcass. Fat content of mature stags carcass can reach 20 % before the rut but falls to a very low level (2 % or less ) after this period. Deers are « late maturing » animals, fat deposition reaches significant level when animals are 18 months old or later, above 50 % of maturity. Nutrient requirements for growth vary from 16.7 to 20.9 Mj EM/kg empty body gain, increasing with animal body weight. Maintenance requirements range between 0.75 and 0.84 Mj EM/kg P0.75 . Gathering the stags before transportation to an abattoir can induce high 24 h post mortem muscle pH values if animals are stressed and care must be taken during handling operations on the farm.

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