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Commentary on Deer Supplement Feeding by John Stauber, Author of Mad Cow USA

June 7, 2002
As you can see by reading this article [below] in this afternoon's Capital Times of Madison, word is slowly leaking out about what has apparently been a massive decade-long feeding of "supplements" (including meat and bone meal as mineral and protein) to wild deer in the heart of the "kill zone," the area of the WI Chronic Wasting Disease outbreak.

Apparently no one in the CWD research community has ever investigated the possibility that CWD may be spreading via rendered feed (mineral, fat and protein supplements), as happened in Britain with mad cow disease. This needs to be investigated immediately as a possible third means of infection for CWD, along with suspected animal-to-animal transmission and environmental contamination.

As you can see from the excerpts of two books below on feeding wild deer, there has been a huge push over the past 10-15 years of supplemental feeding of both game farmed elk and deer and wild deer to grow bigger animals with huge-boned antlers.

The implications for the US feed industry are staggering: a deadly TSE, a different strain than British BSE, has perhaps been spreading silently for a decade via contaminated US rendered byproducts still fed by the billions of pounds a year back to livestock in the US, and also exported globally.

The US refuses to adequately test livestock for TSEs. US feed regulations are so abysmally lax (see the last chapter of our book Mad Cow USA available as a free download at ) that cattle, pigs, sheep and other livestock could all be at risk. Also at risk, of course, would be the people who consume them as food or in biologics.

John Stauber

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"Producing Quality Whitetails" Revised Edition
Al Brothers and Murphy E. Ray, Jr.
Edited by Charly McTee
Published by Texas Wildlife Association, San Antonio, TX 78209
First printing and copyright 1998

P.126 "Deer supplementation has become a real growth industry within a relatively short period of time. Consequently, there has been an explosion in the different types of feed and feeders commercially available. ... There are a few general guidelines which should be considered when supplementing with a commercial feed. One of the most important -- and maybe THE most important -- is the cost/benefit ratio if it can be determined, and whether or not supplementation can be afforded at the levels necessary to enhance reproductive success, body growth, antler growth, and longevity, and/or aid during stress periods."

P.129 "With supplemental feeding, it becomes very easy to maitain artificialy high deer densities and still obtain adequate results in terms of antler and body growth."

P.130 "The planting of food plots specifically for use by deer is another growth industry."

P.132 "Mineral supplementation to boost antler production has become another growth industry in the past decade. To the authors' knowledge, there has been no definite proof that mineral supplementation is an aid in producing large antlers in white-tailed deer. Even if it does aid in antler growth, it is not a one-item panacea for large antlers. ... In analyzing the hardened antler itself, one finds that 40 to 50 percent of the antler is organic material, principally protein. Calcium and phosphorus are the most abundant minerals, in a ration of about two to one. ... All studies on mineral supplementation to date have been on captive deer fed supplementally and artifiically; therefore, results may or may not be applicable to a free-ranging herd. ... The best method of supplementing minerals is to pour the mineral into a hole or depression in the ground. In summary, the three most common methods of increasing deer nutritional levels are growing it from the ground (food plots); pouring it from a sack (commercial feeds and minerals); and reducing deer densities to levels that ensure higher consumption of preferred native browse by individual deer."

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"Food Plots & Supplemental Feeding"
Ben H. Koerth, Dr. James C. Kroll
Published by Center for Applied Studies in Forestry
Copyright 1994, 1998

P.58 "Deer seldom use hard blocks until they melt with rainfall and the mineral can be licked from the ground surrounding the block. providing a loose or granular mineral is preferred. ... ...you should realize any time there is concentrated feeding on the soil surface there is the danger of spreading pathogens and parasites. Mineral supplied in a covered trough is the preferred method. ... ...have it available all year long. There are times when minerals probably are more important than others, particularly when young deer are growing and bucks are beginning antler growth."

P.68 "...research on deer nutrition is limited. Our knowledge about deer at this point is a combination of domestic livestock research along with practical experience in raising deer and working closely with others who do the same. Deer have a ruminant digestive system similar to cattle. However, they cannot be considered 'little cows.' As free-ranging animals, deer are quite different from cattle, with very different feeding preferences. Unfortunately, as feeding deer has become more popular -- as well as economically rewarding -- many feed producers simply have modified existing cattle feeds to fit what they think deer need. In spit of published claims to the contrary, there really are no substantive data on deer performance on these commercial rations. ... However, some feeds developed for livestock probably are adequate for use as a supplement."

P. 71 "Pick up any deer feed brochure and the focus always seems to be on protein content. As with many human endeavors, more too often is considered better. However, this is not always the case. After minimal levels are met, incremental increases in protein levels do not equate to measurable differences in antler score or body weight. ... Young and growing animals have the highest need for protein. Research has suggested protein levels of 13-20 percent are necessary for optimum growth of fawns from weaning through the age of 1.5 years. Also, milk production places increased demands for protein on females. However, minimal levels necessary in the diet are still unknown. Recent work suggest adult bucks can meet body and antler growth requirements with as little as 10% crude protein. However, to meet the requirements of all classes of animals you are supplementing, we suggest you use a feed with a minimum of 15% crude protein."

P.72 "Unfortunately, minimum requirements of most minerals by deer remain unknown. Varying results have been reported for those studied. However, the major minerals we are concerned about in a supplemental feed are calcium and phosphorus. Bot of these minerals are associated largely with skeletal formation, including antler growth. ... As long as these minimal levels are met, a dietary ration of calcium to phosphorus between 1:1 and 2:1 is considered best for proper absorption and metabolism."

P.75 "Check to be sure the feed contains a minimum of 15% crude protein to meet the needs of growing animals. Also, for deer feed, the protein level should be made up of natural protein (sometimes designated NP). In other words, protein derived from plant products. Non-protein nitrogen (usually designated an NPN or urea) is not a good protein source for deer."

"Pelleted feeds are not normal deer food. As a consequence, deer often have to be trained to accept pellets. Molasses is a common attractant and has a high energy level."

P.84 "It costs a lot of money to feed you deer! ... The cost per deer is around $100 per animal per year. ... Even when you have average annual rainfall suitable for food plots, we suggest you install a feeder at each food plot."

P.96 "A free-choice mineral feeder should be located near each food plot. ... We suggest you keep mineral available and let the animals 'decide' if it's necessary."

Reluctantly, hunt begins;
Landowners say it's bad time for harvesting deer

June 7, 2002 Capital Times (Madison, WI) by Anita Weier
Those who live in the heart of chronic wasting disease territory -- in the town of Vermont where the first sick deer were found -- are not excited about the weeklong kill that starts Saturday.

None of three Ryan Road residents interviewed thinks that a fruitful hunt can occur until fall or winter. The state Department of Natural Resources wants to eventually kill all 15,000 white-tail deer in a 361-square-mile area in Dane, Iowa and Sauk counties.

Andy Anderson has obtained hunting permits from the DNR and plans to let people he knows and trusts hunt on his property. But he does not plan to spend a lot of his own time hunting. "I am going to shoot what I see but not just sit in the woods. I don't have time," Anderson said. Deer will be much easier to find in winter than during a leafy spring or summer, he said.

"Summer is a very busy time of the year," said Michael Albert. "What little free time I have after work I like to spend with my family. I have to consider my priorities. This is a hard time of the year to get motivated for hunting. If I do get time I may participate. I have permits and have communicated with people who hunt here. It's up to them to decide. I haven't heard back."

Albert praised the DNR for being respectful to landowners and not pressuring them to hunt or allow hunting on their properties.

David Frame plans to avoid the hunt altogether by going fishing in Montana.

"I think the DNR people have lost their marbles. I lost quite a bit of faith in them lately," he said. "A deer will be standing on the trail now and hop into the woods and you can't see them no more. There is a lot of brush. They just disappear. They shot in the park and got eight deer."

As of 5 p.m. Thursday, 823 permits had been issued to landowners, with more to be issued by Saturday. Each permit allows 20 additional hunters on the property. Additionally, 300 people have requested government marksmen on their property. Of 4,600 letters mailed by the DNR, 1,650 have been returned, indicating that landowners want to participate in the hunt themselves, let government marksmen do so or allow other interested hunters to do so. But not all of them plan to eat the meat, even though the DNR will have it tested if hunters say they want to consume it.

Anderson, who has a degree in meat and animal science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was more aware of dangers of prion diseases - the fatal brain diseases such as CWD that are caused by abnormal proteins - than many others.

An industrial engineer who works as a project engineer at Springs Window Fashions in Middleton, he has lived in the town of Vermont for 27 of his 53 years.

"One thing going through my mind is, do you take the risk and eat the meat? Traditionally, venison has been the main source of meat for our family. But my wife Diane and I slowly came to the same conclusion. It is not worth the risk to eat the meat," Anderson said.

Though there has been no known case of a human being contracting a variant of CWD by eating deer, Europeans did die after eating beef from cattle with mad cow disease.

"It was kind of a crapshoot. They ate brains and organ meat and we generally do not. But sometimes lymph nodes get ground into meat," he said.

Anderson noted that the town of Vermont area where diseased deer were found is in the center of a quality deer management area.

"A few years ago, you weren't a hero unless you shot bucks. The premise of quality management is that you shoot mature trophy bucks and let the young ones go. Some of my neighbors are proponents of that. They are responsible people. The last seven or eight years, there have been a lot of really big bucks out there," Anderson said.

But Albert does not think that quality deer management is the culprit.

"We became involved with QDM around 15 years ago," he said. "It started off as a grass-roots endeavor compromised of a few dedicated landowners who felt we could do just a few things through self-sacrifice to improve the quality of the white-tail herd in our area."

Albert said the practice involves allowing smaller bucks to grow older and harvesting more does instead, in order to balance the herd by sex and age and control overpopulation.

Quality deer management also promotes hunter safety and ethics, he said. They make sure that hunters see their target clearly, so they don't leave a wounded deer to suffer or accidentally shoot a fellow hunter.

Albert has also provided food to help deer through hard winters.

"Mineral and salt licks were indeed utilized, but now with CWD in our area, we have discontinued this to prevent spreading the disease through congregating deer," he said. "Perhaps discontinuing this practice should be promoted or required by the DNR."

Large bucks with big antlers are a byproduct of QDM, not the goal, Albert said, adding that they do not support "trophy deer" management.

"One of the negative things that has come out of this disease is pointing fingers," he said. "One of the fingers pointed was at people in quality deer management."

Albert, age 48, operates a dental lab in his home, doing crown and bridge work for dentists. He and his wife Ann have three children.

"For the time being I am holding off on eating deer meat. I need to learn more before I take that risk. It is still in the freezer. Our family eats about four deer a year. We did consume two of them from the fall but we have stopped," he said.

David Frame, 63, who now raises timber on what was once a dairy farm, blames the arrival of the disease on the DNR and state agriculture department.

"I don't think deer quality management had anything to do with it. I think one was brought in. They allowed animals to come in out of an area that had it," Frame said.

Frame also thinks someone might have shot a deer in Colorado, brought back the carcass, cut off the horns and skull and thrown it in the woods, thus spreading contamination.

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