Anyone supplement the food plots with alfalfa in the winter months?

John D

Member
I'm in in Ohio and everything is dormant right now and covered with snow. The deer are digging a bit to get some vegetation under the snow. I also have a feeder throwing some corn out that the deer are visiting daily. I've heard corn isn't the best for them and more of a treat.
A guy I know who raises deer locally told me he gets this Alfalfa from a local feed store that's imported from Colorado. It's not cheap at $300 a ton but he says the deer absolutely love it. He even put some out for the wild deer and they came to it instantly. I'm not really hunting this new property so I'm more worried about management and giving them something over the winter to help them. I also want to keep them close to my property.
Any advice on the Alfalfa or something else to supplement them? I figure I could tarp the big bale outside and break them off a piece everyday.
 

Native Hunter

Well-Known Member
I've never done anything like that but heard of people doing it. I see deer walking through my NWSG and Forbs fields taking a bite of the native buffet every few steps. They seem extremely healthy and happy.

My only advice would be to get some good native vegetation going to take care of things for you in future years.
 

Drycreek

Well-Known Member
You could always feed protein pellets but that can get expensive. The corn isn’t completely useless, especially in winter when they need the carbs to stay warm. Protein pellets and corn in a 50/50 mix might help them through a harsh winter if you can afford enough of it.
 

Letmgrow

Active Member
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MarkDarvin

Well-Known Member
Knock some food outta the sky.

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Chainsaw

Well-Known Member
John, we feed the deer here in the winter with poplar tree tops and poplar root sprouts. When the winter plots run out poplar trees are cut thru halfway or less well above ground and on the side opposite to where we want them to fall. The first major wind takes them all down and a good amount stays hinged. The deer eat every single bud off of every tree so dropped. The following summer, fall and winter they are eating the thousands of poplar root sprouts that result. Additionally other brush and trees will grow up out from under the hinged tree which are also eaten in the winter. This works great if of course you have poplar trees.
 
I recall reading that deer can survive without food for up to 30 days without repercussions, and even at 90 days, some will be alive, but not salvageable. I can't find the reference to verify the data, so accept it with a grain of salt. The above link to the Indiana handout is useful. Excellent discussion.
 

Letmgrow

Active Member
John, we feed the deer here in the winter with poplar tree tops and poplar root sprouts. When the winter plots run out poplar trees are cut thru halfway or less well above ground and on the side opposite to where we want them to fall. The first major wind takes them all down and a good amount stays hinged. The deer eat every single bud off of every tree so dropped. The following summer, fall and winter they are eating the thousands of poplar root sprouts that result. Additionally other brush and trees will grow up out from under the hinged tree which are also eaten in the winter. This works great if of course you have poplar trees.
The advantage in your case is the deer are continuing their natural diet so their digestive systems are in sync with the food you are providing. I have pretty much the same situation here. In the late winter the Poplar trees are stripped of leaves as far as the deer can reach. These trees are weak at best and often times the deer break the branches or pull them over.
My turnip and radish plots get nibbled at all winter long to the point the plots look like a mine field when the snow cover melts away. Two of my neighbors who border me had their woods logged off a few years ago and the newer established undergrowth has provided a food source for the deer which winter in our area. Another neighbor has done some hinge cutting and is planning on doing more this coming spring and summer. Consequently we see very little winter kill around here.
 

Jeff H

Well-Known Member
All good points above. Just to reiterate and just my .02 but I would not supplement with corn, hay or pellets at all. Your land has a carrying capacity, if you artificially alter that then stop feeding what then ? If you want to help feed them in the winter go cut some small to medium size trees down. They'll eat the tender tips and sometimes eat the bark.
 

MarkDarvin

Well-Known Member
All good points above. Just to reiterate and just my .02 but I would not supplement with corn, hay or pellets at all. Your land has a carrying capacity, if you artificially alter that then stop feeding what then ? If you want to help feed them in the winter go cut some small to medium size trees down. They'll eat the tender tips and sometimes eat the bark.
Agreed.

The thing about sawing the canopy open is you're not only making food immediately by getting it on the ground, you will over time improve your winter carrying capacity as you improve your ground cover. It also takes the need for immediate human intervention out of the equation. You may need to touch it up every few years, but otherwise, that new browse will be a standing stockpile.

Stay on the saw a little each year, and you'll get to a higher, natural, and more sustainable winter CC.
 

Letmgrow

Active Member
I guess I should fess up and explain why I'm against supplemental feeding.
Back in the early nineties we were seeing a few deer around here. Our winters get tough on any wildlife with the cold and deep snow cover. I decided I was going to start feeding the few deer I was observing in my back yard. At that time the only law against feeding deer was you had to be a certain number of feet away from a road or highway. I started putting a few scoops of grain out on the snow and it didn't take long for the deer to find it. We enjoyed watching the deer from our back picture window. Then I built a feeding station with a roof over it to keep the grain dry. I was using a mix from a feed store blended for deer feed.
I don't know how deer communicate but it suddenly seemed as the deer we were seeing told all their friends about the feed and feeder. The numbers increased almost nightly until the back yard was nearly full of deer. At the same time I was making more frequent trips to the feed store. The cost was adding up. Luckily the weather broke early and finally fewer and fewer deer were showing up in my yard. I finally quit the feeding and the deer stopped coming. My feed bill had topped $2300 by that time. Needless to say that was it! I wasn't about to dip into the kids college fund to feed deer. I was getting close though.
What really clinched it for me was in the later nineties I was very active in our local snowmobile club. The President of the club got a call from the state dept. of conservation asking for help doing a survey of a couple deer wintering yards. The President of the club asked me if I could help. Being self employed I had the liberty to take a day off from work so I agreed to help. A couple other club members also came forward and offered their help. I drove our club's trail groomer to the yards they wanted to survey, the rest followed on snowmobiles. There were also a couple students from an environmental college tagging along. This all took place in the latter part of winter. When we reached the first yard the first thing we saw was several dead deer lying about. Some were intact and several had been feasted on by coyotes or coy dogs. This was sad to see. The officials opened up the stomachs of some of the deer. The stomachs were entirely full and the deer were bloated badly. That was when it was explained to me the deer had gotten into corn but were unable to digest it. It was a well known fact there were a couple restaurants not far away which were on the snowmobile trail system. The owners of these restaurants would feed the deer and customers would watch them out the windows. There were even jars where patrons could throw change or bills into the jars to help cover the cost of feed for the deer.
I believe this is one reason feeding deer has been made illegal in our state. The other reason being we have had one active case of CWD in our state. The feeding bans were enacted shortly after the CWD was discovered.
 

Drycreek

Well-Known Member
I guess I should fess up and explain why I'm against supplemental feeding.
Back in the early nineties we were seeing a few deer around here. Our winters get tough on any wildlife with the cold and deep snow cover. I decided I was going to start feeding the few deer I was observing in my back yard. At that time the only law against feeding deer was you had to be a certain number of feet away from a road or highway. I started putting a few scoops of grain out on the snow and it didn't take long for the deer to find it. We enjoyed watching the deer from our back picture window. Then I built a feeding station with a roof over it to keep the grain dry. I was using a mix from a feed store blended for deer feed.
I don't know how deer communicate but it suddenly seemed as the deer we were seeing told all their friends about the feed and feeder. The numbers increased almost nightly until the back yard was nearly full of deer. At the same time I was making more frequent trips to the feed store. The cost was adding up. Luckily the weather broke early and finally fewer and fewer deer were showing up in my yard. I finally quit the feeding and the deer stopped coming. My feed bill had topped $2300 by that time. Needless to say that was it! I wasn't about to dip into the kids college fund to feed deer. I was getting close though.
What really clinched it for me was in the later nineties I was very active in our local snowmobile club. The President of the club got a call from the state dept. of conservation asking for help doing a survey of a couple deer wintering yards. The President of the club asked me if I could help. Being self employed I had the liberty to take a day off from work so I agreed to help. A couple other club members also came forward and offered their help. I drove our club's trail groomer to the yards they wanted to survey, the rest followed on snowmobiles. There were also a couple students from an environmental college tagging along. This all took place in the latter part of winter. When we reached the first yard the first thing we saw was several dead deer lying about. Some were intact and several had been feasted on by coyotes or coy dogs. This was sad to see. The officials opened up the stomachs of some of the deer. The stomachs were entirely full and the deer were bloated badly. That was when it was explained to me the deer had gotten into corn but were unable to digest it. It was a well known fact there were a couple restaurants not far away which were on the snowmobile trail system. The owners of these restaurants would feed the deer and customers would watch them out the windows. There were even jars where patrons could throw change or bills into the jars to help cover the cost of feed for the deer.
I believe this is one reason feeding deer has been made illegal in our state. The other reason being we have had one active case of CWD in our state. The feeding bans were enacted shortly after the CWD was discovered.

If deer are not gradually introduced to corn that can happen. Texas is probably king in supplemental feeding of deer, and most of our corn is fed from spin cast type feeders. There’s not gonna be enough on the ground at any one time for a deer to gorge themselves on it.

Most protein feeders are free choice, but I’ve never heard of a deer dying from eating protein pellets. If they did, a third of the Texas deer would be dead. You remember in my first post I mentioned that it could get expensive. Some of these Texas ranches have protein bills in the thousands, not kidding !

I can’t afford it. I have two protein feeders on two properties but it’s mostly for attraction. I feed it a couple months in January and February, when they eat that the store is closed. We have mild winters compared to the North and by March vegetation is greening up usually. I also run my corn feeders until February. When they run out, early February or late February, it’s over.

By April I’m putting in my spring plots and my wheat is still growing. You can tell when browse is making up most of their diet because my wheat starts getting taller.

So....supplemental feeding here is not the same as where the ground has two or three feet of snow covering it. It’s done to make antlers and bodies bigger for the most part. I do think it contributes to the overall health of the herd, IF the herd is managed for the mouths and stomachs that eat the natural browse.
 

dogghr

Well-Known Member
Plant alfalfa. My deer feed on that year round. Doubt my deer would eat cut alfalfa never seen them do that. In Canada they feed cut barley.
As for the corn toxicity I don’t buy in to. If that were true there would b no deer left here as there is corn behind every tree in the state for 5-6 mo by hunters.


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Mennoniteman

Well-Known Member
In the past I have used oats as a supplemental feed in a gravity feeder with good success. Initally deer need to be introduced to eating the oats by mixing the first batch with corn. After they were accustomed to eating oats they would eat them just like protein. The advantages of using oats is that they are healthier for deer than corn, deer don't pig out on oats like they do on corn so it takes less product, oats are cheaper than protein, and oats don't attract coons and bears like corn will.
 

HB_Hunter

Well-Known Member
I tried an alfalfa bale 8 or so years ago in the dead of winter because I thought they were starving. They didn’t touch it.

I’ve got thousands of poplar sprouts carrying them through the winter now.

I’d try to find a small square bale first.
 

TX-Aggie

Active Member
Back when we could supplement feed corn/protein/etc outside of season, we would always keep corn as the base in the broadcast feeders based on a state agent's advice on the corn toxicosis. During the late Spring and early Fall, we'd do 50/50 mix with corn and protein pellets. As soon as season was over, we'd 3/2 ratio of corn and roasted soybeans until turkey seaon in the spring. Starting in October except for season through March-ish, we'd put Chaffhaye bales at the feeders. We tried regular alfalfa hay, and the deer would eat it every so often, but it would end up rotting mainly. The Chaffhaye they devoured it in 1-2 weeks. Not sure what was so different to cause such drastic intact amounts. Once we started putting out the Chaffhaye, our deer herd started looking better coming out of winter. I don't remember exact pricing, but remember it was cheaper than the protein we fed, about double the price of corn, and inline with the roasted soybeans.
 
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