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will deer eat grass

Old 09-27-2006, 07:30 PM
Nontypical Buck
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Default RE: will deer eat grass

Deer may eat some grass but it's not very common. Most times people see them eating in a yard or golf course and think the are eating grass but that's not the case most times. They are picking out other plants like clover instead. Read this study...is interesting

Wildlife Management Handbook V-A 1
White-tailed Deer Competition with Goats, Sheep, Cattle
and Exotic Wildlife
W. E. Armstrong
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
Hunt, Texas
Deer management is a relatively simple process. If Bites of plants that these animals consumed were recorded
you can grow deer foods, you can grow deer. By by species at weekly intervals over a year's period of time.
understanding deer food habits in relation to livestock food The same animals were then taken to a pasture that was
habits, the land manager can manipulate both livestock heavily grazed by cattle, sheep and goats at a rate of one
and deer numbers to grow more deer foods. AU per 8 acres. This pasture also contained white-tailed
Kinds of Forages
Today's rangelands are capable of producing a given
quantity of forage. This forage can broadly be divided into
three groups—forbs, browse and grass.
Forbs are best defined as broadleaved flowering
plants which most people call weeds. Although many are
perennials or biennials, most are annuals. Forbs are
generally seasonal with the greatest abundance being in
the spring, depending on local rainfall patterns. As a
group, they are high in protein. Examples of forbs are
velvet bundleflower, mat euphorhia, Dakota verbena and
knotweed leafflower.
Browse plants are shrubby or woody plants. They are
deeper rooted, more drought-resistant plants than most
forbs or grasses. As a group, they are lower in protein than
forbs. Examples of browse plants would be hackberry, live
oak, Texas oak and guayacan.
Grasses are those plants with long narrow leaves,
jointed stems, flowers in spikelets and a seedlike fruit.
Most of the major grasses are perennial and lower in
protein than forbs. Examples of grasses would be little
bluestem, Indiangrass, Texas wintergrass, johnsongrass
and fescuegrass.
Food Habits of White-Tailed Deer
and Domestic Livestock
Many food habit studies of white-tailed deer have
been conducted throughout the state of Texas. Several of
these studies were concerned not only with the food habits
of white-tailed deer, but also with the competitive effects
of domestic livestock on white-tailed deer food habits.
In the 196Os, the Kerr Wildlife Management Area
conducted a series of studies to determine the food habits
of white-tailed deer, domestic sheep, Angora goats and
cattle under three different grazing conditions. In this
study, a tame deer, sheep, goat and cow were taken to a
96-acre exclosure that had not been grazed by domestic
livestock or deer for a period of 6 years prior to the study.
deer. The experimental animals' food habits were recorded
in this pasture. The third pasture to which the animals
were taken contained only white-tailed deer. Deer
numbers in this pasture were at saturation level. Bites of
food by these animals were also recorded in this pasture.
The results of these bite studies were then totaled.
Comparisons were made between the heavily grazed
pasture, the deer-only pasture and the exclosure. In the
exclosure, when given a free choice of what it wanted to
eat, the white-tailed deer preferred forbs when they were
available. As forbs became unavailable in the summer and
fall, the white-tailed deer began to shift its diet to browse.
Grass never accounted for more than 15 percent of the
deer's diet, even in the heavily grazed pasture where forbs
and browse were in short supply and competition for food
was severe.
Just as deer were primarily forb eaters, so were sheep.
But as forbs began to disappear in the summer and fall, the
sheep began to eat both grass and browse. In the heavily
grazed pasture, grass accounted for the major portion of
the sheep's diet.
Goats were primarily browsers, taking some forbs
when available. In the exclosure, when given a free choice
of plant species, goats did not consume a large quantity of
grass. In the heavily grazed pasture, goats did consume a
larger quantity of grass than deer but were still primarily
browse eaters.
Cattle in the ungrazed exclosure preferred grass,
taking some forbs and browse. During the winter, cattle on
the Kerr Area took a surprisingly large amount (73
percent) of liveoak, which is an evergreen. In the heavily
grazed pasture, cattle were primarily grass eaters.
Analysis of the bite study data suggests that cows,
sheep and goats can survive on three classes of forage,
whereas the white-tailed deer readily utilizes only two
classes of forage (forbs and browse). This is not to say that
deer do not eat grass. Bite studies on the Texas
Agricultural Experiment Station at Sonora indicate that
deer will utilize as much as 20 percent grass in their
V-A 2 Wildlife Management Handbook
diets on those occasions when grass is in a "lush" or rapid 3. a pasture that was being grazed by domestic
state of growth. On the Experiment Station, this was livestock at a rate of one AU per 16 acres.
primarily johnsongrass and cane bluestem, following 11
inches of rain in July. However, grasses only accounted for
8 percent of the deer's total yearly diet. As grasses matured
and became more coarse, deer began to avoid them.
Deer Digestion
Studies of deer digestion by Short indicate that deer
do not digest coarse fibered plants as readily as low
fibered plants. In addition, it has also been determined that
browse plants high in oil content inhibit the "fermentation"
process in deer. Domestic livestock are more efficient in
digestion of these plants. It is not unusual to find deer
which have "starved" with a paunch full of grass.
Effects of Competition for Food
on White-tailed Deer
Evidence of the effects of competition by domestic
livestock on white-tailed deer were also studied on the
Agricultural Experimental Ranch at Sonora. Deer
populations were monitored on pastures that were
continuously stocked at heavy, moderate and light grazing
rates. Deer numbers were greatest in the lightly stocked
pastures as opposed to the heavily stocked pastures. In
pastures stocked with goats, sheep or cattle, the fewest
deer were found in the heavily grazed sheep pasture (one
deer to 40 acres) as well as the goat pasture (also one deer
to 40 acres). Light grazing with sheep only produced one
deer per 20 acres. Light grazing with goats produced one
deer per 32 acres. One deer per 15 acres and one deer per
7.3 acres were recorded in the heavily and lightly stocked
cattle only pastures, respectively.
The deer were avoiding those areas in which domestic
livestock were depleting browse and forb populations.
Classes of livestock coupled with stocking rates influence
forb and browse production. This in turn influences deer
carrying capacity.
Food Habits of Exotics
Food habit studies have also been conducted with
axis, silo and fallow deer, as well as with blackbuck
antelope and aoudad sheep. These were conducted on the
Kerr Area and the results are in the process of being
published. The study utilized the animal bite method. Food
habits were studied in three different pastures under three
different grazing conditions. Grazing conditions were:
1. a non-grazed pasture in which no livestock or
deer had been grazed for a minimum of 15 years
prior to the study,
2. a pasture containing white-tailed deer only (at
carrying capacity), and
Results of these studies indicate that these major
exotics can effectively utilize three classes of forage. As
far as food habits are concerned, they are either "sheep" or
"goats" in deer clothing. That is, they prefer forbs or
browse but are able to shift their diets to grass without
apparent signs of malnutrition.
Effects of Exotic Competition
As an extension of this study, six sika deer and six
white-tailed deer were placed in a 96-acre pasture. No
hunting or predation occurred in the pasture. Sika deer and
white-tailed deer increased to 27 and 18, respectively, on
96 acres before competition for food became severe.
White-tailed deer at this time decreased to six animals.
Sika deer increased to 32 during the same period. By the
ninth year of study, there were 59 sika deer and no whitetailed
deer alive in the pasture.
A similar study was carried out with axis deer and
white-tailed deer with similar results. Populations of axis
and white-tailed deer reached peaks of 16 axis and 15
white-tailed deer before competition for forbs and browse
became severe. White-tailed deer populations decreased
to three animals at the end of the study while axis
populations were at 16 animals in 96 acres.
In both cases, exotics and white-tailed deer depleted
a food supply causing losses in white-tailed deer. Exotics
shifted their diets to grass, survived and reproduced. By
maintaining grazing pressure on white-tailed deer foods,
exotics depleted white-tailed deer foods from the pasture.
Loss of foods resulted in losses of white-tailed deer.
Conclusions drawn from the studies conducted on
food habits of white-tailed deer, domestic livestock and the
major exotics found in Texas suggest that white-tailed
deer are able to utilize a more narrow range of plants
(plants low in cellulose fiber or low in oils) than either
domestic livestock or exotics.
Sheep are competitive with white-tailed deer primarily
for the higher protein forbs, while goats compete
with deer for the more stable drought-resistant browse.
Cattle on properly stocked ranges are the least competitive
with white-tailed deer. No conclusions were drawn on the
effects exotics have on domestic livestock although it
seems obvious that many exotics would be highly
competitive with domestic livestock, especially goats.
Our ranges only produce a given quantity of forbs and
browse. If a given range will produce enough
Wildlife Management Handbook V-A 3
forbs or browse to produce 100 animals and if 90 of them result will be small, stunted deer with poor antler
are goats and 10 are white-tailed deer, then the 10 white- development, low fawn production and frequent die-offs.
tailed deer will have adequate diets and grow into healthy
animals. If 90 are white-tailed deer and 10 are goats, then
all will be healthy animals.
The problem comes when we overstock our ranges support a given number of animals. By analyzing the
with domestic livestock as well as white-tailed deer. competition for forages available and adjusting both
White-tailed deer, which are not as competitive as the domestic livestock, exotic and native deer numbers to this
domestic livestock, will suffer from malnutrition. The forage, we can produce healthy, good quality, high
In conclusion, our ranges are capable of producing a
given quantity of forage comprised principally of forbs,
browse and grasses in varying amounts. This forage will
producing animals.
Appendix I
The following is a list of some of the more preferred food items in the white-tailed deer diet. Since browse plants are
the more stable range plant in the deer's diet (not as weather related as forbs), browse plants are good indicators of deer
range. Adequate forb production should release grazing pressure on browse. Heavy dependence on browse in the spring and
early summer indicates an overpopulation of forb or browsing animals. This, in turn, inhibits good deer production.
Selected South Texas forage plants:
Pricklypear cactus
Opuntis lindheimeri
Mesquite mast
Prosopis glandulosa
La coma
Bumelia celastrina
Celtis pallida
Catclaw acacia
Acacia greggii
Desert lantana
Lantana macropoda var. albiflora
Lime pricklyash
Zanthoxylum fagara
Poelieria angustifolia
Allthorn castela
Castela texana
Texas silverleaf
Leucophyllum frutescens
Texas colubrina
Colubrina texensis
Perennial lazy daisy
Aphanostephus riddellii
Kidder dosedaisy
A. kidderi
Dayflower sp.
Commelina sp
Prostrate euphorbia
Euphorbis prostrata
Selected Rolling Plains forage plants:
Phoradendron serotinum var. pubescens
Abutilon incanum
Opuntis lindheimeri
Woollybucket bumelia
Rhus aromatica
Common mesquite (mast)
Prosopis glandulosa
Spreading sida
Sida filicaulis
Gray goldaster
Heterotheca canescens
V-A 4 Wildlife Management Handbook
Appendix I (continued)
Selected East Texas forage plants:
Alabama supplejack
Berchemia sp.
White ash
Fraxinus americana
Ilex vomitoria
Rubus sp.
Smilax sp.
Kentucky virburnum
Virburnum molle
Georgia holley
Ilex longipes
Honey locust
Gleditsia sp.
Selected Edwards Plateau forage plants:
Texas oak (Spanish oak)
Quercus texana
Q. virginiana
Post oak
Q. stellata
White shin oak
Q. breviloba
Woollybucket bumella
Bumelia lanuginosa
Celtis sp.
Smilax sp.
Ulmus sp.
Flameleaf sumac
Rhus copallina
Grape sp.
Vitis sp.
Velvet bundleflower
Desmanthus velutinus
Knotweed leafflower
Phyllanthus polygonoides
Prickly lettuce
Lactuca serriola
Southwest bedstraw
Galium sp.
Mat euphorbia
Euphorbia serpens
Four-o'clock sp.
Mirabilis sp.
Kybuckhunter is offline  
Old 09-28-2006, 11:25 AM
Join Date: Jan 2005
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Default RE: will deer eat grass

absolutley. In fact during spring turkey season here in oklahoma I say two does eat plain ol' grass right in front of me for about thirty minutes
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Old 09-28-2006, 12:15 PM
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Default RE: will deer eat grass

Sorry Kybuckhunter, this is one of the few times I don't need a handbook. At least up here in New England, I've been watching deer feed in hay fields for more then 35 years.
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Old 09-28-2006, 01:00 PM
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Default RE: will deer eat grass

[align=left]Deer Digestion[/align][align=left]Studies of deer digestion by Short indicate that deer[/align][align=left]do not digest coarse fibered plants as readily as low[/align][align=left]fibered plants. In addition, it has also been determined that[/align][align=left]browse plants high in oil content inhibit the "fermentation"[/align][align=left]process in deer. Domestic livestock are more efficient in[/align][align=left]digestion of these plants. It is not unusual to find deer[/align][align=left]which have "starved" with a paunch full of grass.[/align]
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Old 09-28-2006, 01:52 PM
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Default RE: will deer eat grass

I think the point that is trying to be made is,,deer eat some types of grass. Clover, alfalfa, rye, oats, wild flowers, forbes,etc... JUST TO NAME A FEW. I'm sure that on occassion that deer might eat just plain old lawn grass. But all in all deer deer don't eat plain old lawn grass, as a main food source.

People on here saying they saw deer in a field eating grass, probably saw a deer in a field eating clover, forbes, alfalfa or one of the many TYPES of grass.

Thisthread is just some people confusing "plain old lawn grass" for one of the many types eaten by deer.

Some are labeling all types of grasses as just grass while others are noting that there are certain types eaten and are seperating lawn grass from oats, clover, wildflowers.

When you shell out big bucks for a bag of seeds for a food plot you are not buying lawn grass. You are buy the types that are desired by deer.

I think the original intent of this thread was ask by a beginner hunter asking if deer eat gras that grows between corn fields and woods. Perhaps he was thinking of putting up a stand there or something. Then everyone was posting that, yes, deer eat grass.

The thread then got turned around.

It is true that deer are browsers not grazers. While they eat certain types of grass they aren't partial to lawn grass. They may eat it but they prefer many, many, many other types of plants over it.

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Old 09-28-2006, 02:17 PM
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Default RE: will deer eat grass

Right on,WW7!
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Old 09-28-2006, 02:38 PM
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Default RE: will deer eat grass

I have 40 acres of Argentine Bahia, Wild Persimmons, Crab Apples, Over 100 Live Oak Trees (tons of acorns), Wild Black Berries, Wild Asparagus, Wild Pears and God knows what else!

All the hugeHibiscus Plants around the houseget their leafs eaten off, can't keep Rose Bushes around house. Here is a fat rump Doe and her two twins that I chased from my yard into the pasture. This is about 800 ft from my front door.They appear to be eating grass, but are picking on forbes in the grass.

I have Bucks, Does and fawns all around my house and many more on the property.

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Old 09-28-2006, 07:51 PM
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Default RE: will deer eat grass

When I read this I thought, "this must be a trick question."

Yes, deer will eat grasses of many types. I will see countless deer often when I drive, especially at night on relatively quiet country roads where there is fresh green grass, some clover and assorted other vegetation.
Of course, they eat all sort of other browse like young sappling shoots, acorns, apples, cedar bows, grainsand some pine tree ends (white pine) to name a few.

I have no idea why anyone wouldn't think an animal that browses on all sorts of other vegetation would eat tender green grasses.
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Old 10-05-2006, 04:05 PM
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Default RE: will deer eat grass

deerhunt1...i think all browsers can and do
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