Comparing natural vegetation and food plot preference in captive white-tailed deer



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Supplemental feed is the most expensive input in the captive white-tailed deer and exotic wildlife industries. This is due to operations utilizing high energy/high protein pellets as supplemental feed. To combat this, low fence operations often plant food plots with high quality vegetation to minimize cost and increase forage availability for wildlife. The objective of this study was to determine forage preference of wildlife species in captivity. Seven food plots comprising of twenty-five acres were planted with one of three forage blends. The treatments were, a commercial blend of soybeans, a commercial blend of soybeans, sunflowers, and milo, and an unplanted, natural vegetation. Utilization cages were distributed in all treatment plots to prevent wildlife access to areas and serve as ungrazed control sample. Vegetative samples, inside and outside of the utilization cages, were collected on days 30, 60, and 90 after planting. Vegetative weights on days 60 and 90 supporting consumption of the commercial blends, (P < 0.05), over the unplanted, natural vegetation treatment. This data illustrates that the preferred forage for white-tailed deer and exotics were the commercial blends of forages. Decreased consumption of feed pellets suggests a cost savings and implies food plots were preferred.



Forage preference, White-tailed deer, Food plots, Supplemental feed, Forage selection