The Importance of Deer Protein Feed as a Supplement

There’s a certain level of controversy regarding the exact dietary percentage of deer protein feed that’s needed for the animal to achieve optimal health. But what is certain is the fact that deer protein feed does help improve antler growth, accelerates fawn production and keeps your herd healthy in times when vegetation and other food sources are limited.

The amount of protein they consume varies greatly on the geographic location, time of year and weather patterns. Research from South Texas indicates that wild deer diets can include up to 25 percent protein resulting in excellent antler growth. Adding to this, most food they munch on contain more than 30 percent protein, but the animals remain unharmed even with this rich protein intake.

In fact, these high levels helps a buck achieve its genetic potential for antler growth. This consequently enhances the growth of deer velvet, which offers myriad benefits towards human health. Some of these human health benefits are, improve the way the immune system works, counter the effects of stress and promote faster recovery from illness. Deer protein is not only important for maintenance and growth of all organs of the body, but also for several physiological functions as well.

The amount of protein wild deer need is affected by several factors including the environment, genetics, diseases and parasite challenges. For example, mature or elderly white-tail require just 8-12 percent protein intake, whereas average size middle aged white-tail require at least 13 to 20 percent.

Deer protein feeds work to augment the health of deer when natural forage conditions are less than ideal such as in winter months and in times of scarce rainfall. Even in a good year, the digestible protein content of major species is roughly below 10 percent by late summer, and in most cases stays around that number until the spring green-up.

The best deer feed infused with protein additives ensure that they receive an adequate amount of protein throughout the year. Protein pellets have become an increasingly popular form of a deer supplemental feeding program. They are also known to greatly improve feed taste, smell and palatability. A protein feeder for deer should be placed at the right spots so that they are easily accessible for deer.

Tips on Starting a Deer Protein Feed

Choosing the right spot – It is recommended that you place the feeders in a secluded area, along the edges of vegetation, travel corridors and preferably near a plentiful water supply. With regards to the number of feeders, one per 20 – 30 deer is great, but you can always install multiple feeders to increase access to feed for uniformity of antler growth throughout your herd.

Leading them to the feeder – You will in most cases have to guide the deer to the feeding point especially if you’re setting up a new feeding station. Make a trail using corn starting from the closest deer trail to your deer protein feeders. In order to serve as effective attractants, spread the corn around the feeders as well as this will help reel them in quickly.

Mix corn with protein – Deer, in most cases, will eat familiar feed such as corn over something new, so if you’re setting up a food plot in a new area, mix corn along with the protein. Once they have started nibbling on the feed, gradually back off on the corn until it eventually becomes full protein feed.

Choosing the right feeder – It is important to choose the right one to give deer easy access to the protein and keep the food cool, dry and fresh. There are several different types of feeders available from standing, to hanging, to gravity, so choose the type that the deer will be comfortable with.

Deer feeders can also available in a spectrum of different sizes, and even though the right one should grab the deer’s attention, it should be appealing to the other wildlife surrounding the area. If you’re buying an electric one, make sure it offers enough charge for the entire season and even better if it shows promise for multiple seasons.

Durability is the next important aspect to consider when buying deer protein feed, so look for products that showcase robust build quality. Volume is the amount of feed the unit can hold and is listed in either gallons or pounds. As you might have guessed, the bigger a feeder’s holding capacity, the fewer trips you will have to make to refill it. In terms of refilling, it can be done in several ways such as lowering the feeder or lifting the bag of feed over your head or climbing a ladder.

Tips on Feeding throughout the Year

Deer Protein Feed Locations and Characteristics

As mentioned earlier, the amount of premium protein needed depends on several factors including environment and climate. Therefore it is important to have a strategy in place throughout the year to ensure a healthy herd. This strategy should go beyond just sprinkling corn around the property all through the year and hoping for the best. Providing the correct type such as deer food pellets and others, plus knowing when to feed can maximize your efforts.

Fall to Mid-Winter – The primary goal of feeding through the fall and the early days of winter is to help them build their fat reserves in order to help them withstand the rut and cold months. However, it is important to check your local laws before you do so, because some states do not allow supplements in the area before hunting season.

Although acorns, mast crops and food crops do a great job of getting the deer ready for the physically demanding rut, deer protein made available to them during and after this period helps prevent weight loss. The recommended supplement mixture for fall too mid-winter is 50 lbs fat (rice bran), 100 lbs carbohydrates (corn) and 50 lbs protein (high quality).

Late Winter to Early Spring – This is the time when you need to be more careful, because placing gains at the wrong time can result in potentially fatal digestion problems. Diets of course do vary across regions, where you will find certain species feasting on large areas of corn right off the stalk well into February.

Since they are already eating well and gaining the essential dose of protein via Mother Nature, it may be wise to refrain from supplement feeding at this time as their digestive system may find it challenging to digest this new food type. If this your first year of supplement feeding, the best advice is to wait until the spring when their stomachs have the right microorganisms required for smooth digestion.

Mid-Spring to Late Summer – This is the right time to fill the feeders with the best protein feed i.e. one that includes a few minerals as well. The concentration of protein can vary across brands, but it is typically between 15 and 22 percent.

Again, the ideal amount of deer protein feed to use at this time of year varies depending on the conditions, where there may not be an adequate supply of leafy greens and a high protein pellet may not be easy to digest in hot and dry summers. A high protein pellet will be easier to digest along with the normal vegetation if you’re experiencing a mild summer and normal rainfall.

Other types of Nutrients 

Apart from protein, not providing them with the required dose of other nutrients can have adverse effects on their health. Even though energy is not regarded as a nutrient, the nutrient concentration in the foods eaten directly affects their energy levels. They need a high dose of energy for several functions including growth and normal day activities, temperature regulation and reproduction.

In the fall, deer generally look for foods that are rich in carbohydrates such as acorns and grain crops, which are stored in their body as fat reserved, and used during the periods of winter stress and breeding season. Minerals – another type of nutrient, accounts for 5 percent of a deer’s body, with the two most important ones being calcium (Ca) and phosphorus (P).

These two minerals are used by most species for general metabolism, bone and antler growth, and milk production. Vitamins are important nutrients, and the exact amount of vitamins needed is unknown. But vitamin inconsistencies in deer are somewhat a rare occurrence.

Water is one of the most important nutrients, and accounts for 70 to 75 percent of the animal’s body. Deer are believed to consume 3 to 6 quarts of water per day from a surface water source such as a stream, spring or pond. They also get a bit of water from the moisture within the vegetation they eat. Deer like to lick surfaces, so many people put out salt licks, these provide a few other nutrients that can be found in salt.


Deer are highly sensitive to changes in nutrition, and not getting the right level at the right time can affect the size of their antlers, and may not make them a sportsman choice. The advantages of using a deer protein feed are too much to list, but include increased heard health, reduced herd mortality rate, and increased consistency in breeding and herd sizes.

You might also like this: The Many Types of Deer and Deer Species

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