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Alfalfa for deer – If you have deer as pets or are tending to the deer around your property, Alfalfa might be one of the best nutritional sources of food. Alfalfa is available in bulk, making it one of the best options for feeding deer around larger properties.

Below are some of the best benefits of alfalfa for deer, and some pointers to keep in mind if you’re thinking about supplements for your deer.

Do Deer Eat Alfalfa?

Mule Deer Fawn and Does grazing in Alfalfa field
Mule deer in an alfalfa field

Deer are natural foragers, and if given the opportunity they will gladly munch down on alfalfa around your property. In fact, deer eat around 400 different species of plants, which can include:

  • Browse, which consists of the leafy part of woody plants
  • Forbs, which are broader leaf plants
  • Mast, which consists of hard or soft seeds (preferably softer fruits like berries)
  • Mushrooms
  • Grass

Alfalfa also makes that list, including both second-cut and first-cut alfalfa.

Benefits of Alfalfa for Deer and Nutrition

Alfalfa is hailed not only for its high fiber and high protein content but also for the many nutrients that are present in it.

Alfalfa has loads of nutritional benefits and contains essentials such as:

  • 16% of protein
  • 8% mineral constituents
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin K

Are Alfalfa Pellets Good to Feed Deer?

Black-tailed buck eating alfalfa pellets
Black-tailed buck eating alfalfa pellets

Please note that generally, feeding wild deer is not recommended. In some cases, it may even be illegal. Read this post for information and check with your local government about deer feeding rules before you start!

If you want to feed the deer around your property, alfalfa for deer is a good choice. In fact, a recent survey showed that deer did well on a mix of 25% corn and 75% second-cut alfalfa. Sadly, many people choose to feed the deer around their property with food that isn’t nutrient-dense.

Deer need to consume around 12 lbs. of food a day if they are around 150 lbs., which translates to roughly 8% of their body weight. However, deer can die if they eat too much food that is low-quality and not nutrient-dense.

Deer naturally produce more enzymes from their salivary glands to help break down food. However, it’s important that they get adequate nutrition from plants such as alfalfa and natural berries, browse, and protein-rich vegetation around them.

Can You Feed Deer Alfalfa Pellets During the Winter?

You can safely feed alfalfa pellets to deer during the winter. Instead of cutting your own alfalfa crops.

In fact, according to the Michigan State University Extension, both second-cut alfalfa and alfalfa pellets are good choices for deer. It’s important to find pellets that are high in nutrients and made specifically for grazing.

Benefits of Alfalfa Pellets for Deer

Alfalfa pellets are acceptable to feed to deer, so long as they remain in good condition. Alfalfa pellets are a good choice for feed and have been shown in studies to:

  • Increase weight gain
  • Improve feed intake
  • Improve feed digestibility
  • Better gut health

What Type of Alfalfa Do Deer Like?

In the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, a survey done during the winter showed that deer do well with a mix of corn and second-cut alfalfa.

Second-cut alfalfa, as the name suggests, is alfalfa that is cut after the first cutting has already been made. Because alfalfa grows incredibly fast and abundantly, you might be able to get a second cut of alfalfa that you can feed to your deer.

However, the timing is important. It’s recommended that second-cut alfalfa be harvested after the killing frost has passed during the months of August or early September.

If you cut your alfalfa during August or September, this will stimulate regrowth, which will lead to higher chances of dying alfalfa crops during the depth of winter. Instead, second-cut your alfalfa to feed to your deer after the killing frost has passed.

It’s worth the wait for a second cut since second-cut is also high in nutrients, which is the most important aspect of deer feeding!

Will Deer Eat Dry Alfalfa?

dry yellow alfalfa field in the fall with female doe deer

If you’re worried about soaking your alfalfa pellets or if deer will eat your alfalfa at all, it’s good to know that they don’t search for food based on texture. A study found that deer actually choose food based on their energy content, not their protein content.

Alfalfa, of course, is easy to digest due to its high-fiber content and offers energy for deer. If you’d like to leave alfalfa for deer, it’s not necessary to soak it beforehand.

Will Deer Eat Hay Bales In Winter?

Deer need food with high nutritional content during the winter. Unfortunately, hay does not provide adequate nutrition, and might be harmful to deer during the winter time.

In fact, they can die with bellies full of hay during the winter. While they might eat hay bales during the depth of winter, it isn’t a good food source.

Make sure to always provide nutrient-rich food like alfalfa for deer during the winter time. 

How Much Alfalfa Should I Feed Deer?

Deer need to eat around 6% to 8% of their body weight in food. However, that doesn’t mean you have to feed this much alfalfa to your deer. In fact, studies have shown that deer Alfalfa-Orchardgrass mixtures at a 1:1 ratio are preferable, and can save you more money.

How Long Will Deer Eat Alfalfa?

Deer will eat alfalfa for as long as it is available and all year round. However, keep in mind that deer will have reduced appetite during the winter in order to save on energy. Keeping this in mind, don’t be surprised if deer don’t show up to feed on your property during the winter months.

How Late Will Deer Eat Alfalfa?

There is no set time frame for when deer won’t eat alfalfa, as this will vary throughout the year. However, research has shown that deer will forage at night during the winter since vegetation will begin to die off.

This will lead them to seek out food in more open areas, feeling more vulnerable during the day. Thus, you might see them in more open areas such as open fields at night during the winter time.

How Do You Feed Alfalfa to Deer?

The best way to feed alfalfa is to mix it in with orchardgrass or timothy, and spread it around your property. Deer are foragers, so they will naturally seek out alfalfa and food around your property.

However, you do have other options for alfalfa, including:

  • Hay bales containing alfalfa
  • Alfalfa pellets
  • Alfalfa cubes

Keep reading!

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