Feeding Game – Be Informed

Feeding game is an expensive exercise. Game farming with animals not reproducing as they should is even more unaffordable. Be informed, choose the correct product, and feed for results.

 Game, as opposed to farm animals like cattle and sheep, have survived and multiplied for thousands of years without intervention by man. Through a ‘survival of the fittest’ selection process over millennia, game species have developed, as it were, a super gene pool in contrast to farm animals generally selected for reproduction characteristics such as, for instance, milk production, rather than survival attributes of game such as resistance to disease.

The arrival of the plough and of fences, however, changed things: game is no longer free to roam over wide ranges to where the grazing is most favourable in terms of quality as well as quantity, as most species did in the past. Previously, game which could travel freely, avoided grazing deficient in nutrients and minerals and selected more favourable grazing with high levels of these minerals.

Nutritionally the problem starts when the availability of both the Protein and Energy of the veld decreases as the grazing reaches a more mature stage. In more sourveld areas, grazing quality declines sharply from March, and during the winter protein content can drop to as low as 2 – 4%. Low protein values, together with a lowered digestibility inhibit the intake of enough roughage and this leads to weight loss. This weight loss manifests itself further in a decline in fertility, natural resistance against internal and external parasites is negatively affected as well as poor hoof and horn growth which is obviously of great economic importance as it affects the trophy animal adversely.

Fenced in game is thus not in a position to be self reliant. Healthy farming practices such as supplementation must therefore be applied to counter the potential economic loss.

The starting point with supplementation is to ensure that the natural veld is still utilised and that only the shortages are supplemented. Available grazing is thus ‘stretched’ as far as possible, while care should be taken to avoid overgrazing which has many negative and expensive consequences in the long term. Guidelines regarding carrying capacity, thus, should be strictly observed.

Late summer, autumn and early winter

Normally there is enough volume of grazing during this period, but with a reduced value. Protein supplementation during this time assists with both the digestibility as well as the intake of the natural grazing.

The supplementation required here is only one containing protein and minerals. This period usually lasts from March/April to around June/July after which the amount of grazing available can also become problematic depending on both the particular season as well as the grazing pressure.

Different protein supplements are available but one should guard against blocks which are too hard resulting in low intakes, and avoid products too reliant on urea to provide protein. Avoid licks with any form of medication, and consult the bag tag for vitamin and mineral additives.

Driehoek Feeds’ Game Lick is a 16% Protein supplement which is urea free and is specifically formulated to fulfill the requirements during this period of the year. This Lick can be safely utilized to ensure the desired intake and is also high in vitamin and mineral additives.

Middle and late winter

It is important, during this time, to determine the actual volume of the available grazing. Is there enough standing hay and reasonable amounts of still edible leafy material left? Are there any available wetlands for the grass eaters or any rocky ridges, which normally ensure that browsers like kudus still make use of shrub like vegetation? If the quantity of natural grazing is still sufficient, a Protein supplement in the form of a Lick is still all that is needed.

Normally, however, at this stage the veld shows signs of thinning and it is usually a consideration to change to a production Lick which supplies Protein and Energy. This helps ‘stretch’ available grazing, but also maintains the animals’ condition which assists in the hard months which lie ahead. Most production licks contain a small amount of urea which should rather be avoided especially where scarce and valuable species are concerned. Avoid production licks which contain ionofors (e.g. Na Monensin) as this can be fatal for all the hind gut fermenters like Rhino’s and Zebras.

Where the amount of grazing available begins to be problematic, especially where there is a high concentration of game, it might be necessary to change to a complete feed. Driehoek’s Standard Game Cubes can be used to fill the gap in veld quantity. This product is safe to use and includes a very high profile vitamin and mineral supplementation. There is absolutely no so-called ‘acacia bush’ added. Only material which is highly digestible and palatable is used to ensure that the necessary nutrients are supplied to the animals which are now certainly subject to a certain amount of nutritional stress.

It is thus important to use the right product at the right time to ensure the most cost effective supplementation of animals and to achieve the desired results.