When deciding what to feed your deer, there are many options available. You could try making your own feed or just pop to the nearest store to pick up some sweet feed.
But did you know that deer have quite specific dietary requirements? There can be some dire consequences if these requirements are not met.
What might be easiest and cheapest for you, might not be what is best for your deer.
Will Deer Eat Sweet Feed? Do They Like Sweet Feed?
Deer will definitely eat sweet feed. Sweet feed can consist of a variety of things, but at its most basic is simply grains, such as oats or corn, bound together by molasses. It has a very strong aroma that deer can smell from far away, and it’s a delicious sweet treat. It is often used as bait because deer love it so much.
Think of sweet feed like dessert. Sugary, carb loaded desert. If humans only ate dessert every meal, it would probably make us sick and affect our health. The same goes for deer, that being said Deer Love Sweet Feed!
What Is The Best Sweet Feed For Deer?
The world of deer feed manufacturing is not very competitive, and since all sweet feed is, at its core, made of the same ingredients, any sweet feed will do. However, it must be said that the best sweet feed is going to be whichever you can get that is of high quality.
That also usually means most expensive.
As a tip, you might want to go for sweet feed that has minerals or protein pellets mixed into it.
Deer need food that is quite high in protein and nutritional. Corn, oats, and molasses, which are the basic ingredients for sweet feed, do not provide sufficient nutrients and minerals deer need.
Can Deer Eat Horse Sweet Feed?
Horse feed and horse sweet feed is not a good substitute for deer. The biggest reason for this is simply that horse feed is made specifically to the dietary requirements of a horse. Horses have different digestive tracts and production goals, that is why they have feed made specifically for them.
Horse feed is also much starchier, and lower in protein, which deer need for optimal antler growth. Therefore, it is not recommended to use horse sweet feed as a substitute for deer feed.
Is Sweet Feed Safe for Deer?
I will answer this simply first. Sweet feed can be unsafe for deer. It can be harmful both short term and long term.
Let’s get into this. Deer in the wild eat a wide variety of foods such as grass, weeds, nuts, and fruits. These foods provide a diverse selection of proteins, minerals, and carbohydrates, all of which are needed for optimal growth and health.
The Deer Ecology And Management Lab at Mississippi State University has suggested that, for healthy development, the protein content for deer should be roughly 16%.
Corn is incredibly cheap, and that is why sweet feed is generally made of corn, oats, and molasses. Corn and oats are both high in carbohydrates. Corn is low in protein and lacks other nutrients and minerals. Regular corn feed has about 8% or 9% of protein, so only about half of what deer actually need.
This means that deer on a regular sweet feed diet will simply not get the vital and diverse nutrients they need. This can lead to poor antler growth and health.
While the long-term consequences of sweet feed are clear, some deer can die of acidosis. Acidosis happens when deer are introduced to sweet feed, or any feed with an increase in carbohydrates too quickly.
This rapid change in their diet, and inability to digest the carbohydrates can cause deer a lot of pain and can lead to death. To avoid this sweet feed should be used sparingly and introduced slowly.
As anything, too much of a good thing, is a bad thing. So while deer may love sweet feed and a variety of foods is good for them (this includes tasty treats like sweet feed), they do not need to have it all the time.
It is however a great way to bait deer, or help some deer that just need a little bit of strength and energy.
Homemade Sweet Feed For Deer, Simple DIY Recipe
One way to ensure the quality of your feed is to simply make it yourself. If you’re keen on feeding some deer in your backyard, or simply want to reward your deer with a little treat, it is very easy to make your own sweet feed.
You’ll want to mix equal parts corn and oats and bind them with molasses. The amount of molasses of course depends on the amount of grains you used. Generally, you’ll want around 60ml of molasses for every 2 ½ cups of your dry mix.
Another great thing about making your own sweet feed is that you could add protein pellets or mineral powders and the like to up the nutritional value of your sweet feed.
A word of caution. Do not place your sweet feed in a feeder that has a timer. If sweet feed sits in the feeder too long, it will melt and get sticky, will get stuck in the feeder, and eventually go moist and mouldy.
You want you deer to have easy and direct access to the sweet feed, like a through feeder would provide.
Since deer love sweet feed, it will be gone before you know it!
Other Feeds That Deer Will Eat
Deer aren’t picky eaters. In fact, their natural diet consists of so many different foods. They like apples, carrots, potatoes, nuts, and other grains, so it is safe to say that they will eat what they are given, including feed that is meant for other animals.
Most people want to feed deer whatever is the least expensive and easiest to get. But it is important to remember that there is a reason why there is feed for goats, feed for horses, and feed for deer.
Each animal has different dietary requirements. Each of these animals have a different digestive tract. Therefore, it is important to buy deer feed for deer whenever that is an option.
Can Deer Eat Goat Feed?
Other than high protein requirements, deer also have quite a high dietary copper requirement. Goat feed and sheep feed is very low in copper because goats and sheep are quite intolerant of dietary copper. Goat feed is also low in protein.
While this low copper, low protein, feed is optimal for goats, we know it is not very beneficial for deer. A deficiency in copper and protein will affect the health and growth of deer.
Can Deer Eat Chicken Feed?
While chicken feed is mostly a mix of grains similar to deer feed, and contains a high amount of protein, this protein is usually derived from animals. Chickens are omnivores.
This means they can eat both animal and plant matter. Deer are herbivores, or, to be more specific, ruminants.
This means they have multiple sections in their stomachs that help them digest plant matter. Deer cannot digest animal protein, and so chicken feed can be quite harmful to them.
Can Deer Eat Cattle Feed?
Cattle feed is usually formulated for to achieve maximum milk production in dairy cows for example.
The nutritional requirements for this type of feed are very different than that for deer feed. Cattle feed does not have the same mineral fortification, nor does it have the current fiber to starch ration required for deer.
Will Deer Eat All Stock Sweet Feed?
All stock sweet feed can be great for deer. Most All Stock sweet feed has less molasses and is more nutritionally complete. As a result it crumbles when wet instead of going sticky and can be cheaper too.
Deer Feed That Racoons Or Hogs Won’t Eat
Here’s the problem with sweet feed or any type of feed, the racoons and the hogs love it. It can be quite difficult to find ways to keep them from snacking of the food meant for your deer.
The deer feeding community still has not found a sure-fire way of ridding these freeloaders from stealing your deer’s food, but some suggest adding something called ‘Monkey Chow’. It will not harm deer, but racoons and the like are unable to digest it.
Though not a proven method, many people claim it works wonders and their number of thieving racoons had reduced dramatically.
When it comes to keeping the hungry hogs from munching on your deer feed, a simple solution is to place the deer feeder high enough to be out of reach for hogs, but easily accessible to deer. With the height difference between hogs and deer, that sounds like an easy fix.
What is the best grain to feed deer?
Acorns, soybeans, wheat and oats are great for deer and some of their favourite food too.
What can you feed deer besides corn?
There is plenty of food besides corn to feed deer. Since corn isn’t very nutritious anyway, you’re better off looking for alternatives. Alfalfa, oats, and rice bran are great alternatives that provide the right amount of protein and nutritional diversity.
Sweet feed is a great treat and something you can easily make if you’re keen on providing some food for wild deer in your backyard. You might even consider giving them horse feed, or whatever feed is available.
But the truth is quite simple, feed deer -deer feed. Not just that, but high quality deer feed. If you want strong and healthy deer with beautiful antlers you need to understand and provide them with the nutrients they need to achieve this.
Now, deer aren’t picky eaters, they eat a wide variety to food and you can easily make their meal times interesting by mixing deer feed with nuts, fruits, or any of their other favourite foods such as soybeans, alfalfa, or acorns.
Finally, a great idea is to use bush and tree trimmings to supplement deer feed because twigs and branches are things deer would naturally eat anyway.