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Nutrient Management Can Easily Improve Copper Status of Deer

Monday, 2 December 2002


New research shows the copper status of deer can be easily improved via normal fertiliser pasture application. Historically, copper deficiency in deer has been a common problem that potentially leads to nerve and bone disorders.

Senior Research Scientist Dr Neville Grace of AgResearch studied the copper status of grazing weaner, yearling and mature hinds over two years. He found a seasonal pattern, with blood and liver copper levels lowest in late spring/early winter.

Young deer are at greatest risk. The research showed that by increasing the copper status of pregnant hinds, through copper topdressing, their fawns’ liver stores from birth to weaning were markedly increased.

Currently, deer farmers rely on copper dosing to ensure deer have adequate copper levels. This new research offers farmers an easy method of supplementing their deer’s diet via topdressing, which unlike dosing methods requires no contact or handling of animals.

Dr Hilton Furness, Technical Director of Fert Research says the research will save deer farmers time and money, and is easy to put into practice.

“If deer farmers have a comprehensive nutrient management programme in place then these findings provide a cost effective way to prevent copper deficiency. Cutting down on handling time by adding copper to fertiliser means that copper provision is far less invasive for deer, and involves less handling and time for the farmer,” he says.

Deer farmers will soon be planning autumn fertiliser applications, and should ensure their nutrient management takes account of copper requirements.

By adding 12kg/ha of copper sulphate (3.0 kg Cu/ha) to pasture in autumn deer can graze for up to 10 months and maintain good copper status. This level of application raises pasture copper concentrations to between 45-60mg Cu/kg DM. Provided copper concentration remains above 45mg Cu/kg DM for at least 2 months deer are unlikely to suffer copper deficiency. Any variation in pasture uptake can be because of variable application rate, soil type and pasture type.

Funding for Dr Grace’s research was provided by Fert Research and undertaken jointly by AgResearch and Massey University.

For more information visit to download the full research paper.

Grace, N.D. “Effect of the application of copper to pasture in the copper status of grazing weaner, yearling and mature hinds” Sept, 2002

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