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Successful late season pregnancy possible for deer


By Janette Busch

Successful late season pregnancies possible for deer

Erin Quinn-Walsh, an honours student at Lincoln University, has shown it is possible for red deer hinds to produce calves after a late season mating.

While red deer hinds farmed in New Zealand typically conceive around April, they continue to ovulate at regular intervals right through until September but no research has been carried out to show whether they are actually capable of establishing a pregnancy late in the season.

Erin found that deer were able to produce young after becoming pregnant in August.

Her work was supervised by Associate Professor in Animal Physiology, Dr Graham Barrell, from the Agriculture and Life Sciences Division at the University,

Erin used mixed-age adult red deer hinds selected from the Deer Unit of the Lincoln University Research Farm for her research project. The hinds were allowed to graze unrestrictedly on pasture and given supplementary feed when required during winter. Mature stags were present on the property but were not included with the study animals.

Half of the hinds were inseminated using frozen semen in May and the other half in August. There were no significant differences in the number of hinds that became pregnant in May compared with August.

Healthy calves were born to May-inseminated hinds in early January and to August-inseminated hinds in April.

“This is a very neat bit of fundamental science that has not been done before. It will add to the growing body of scientific knowledge about deer farming in New Zealand,” said Dr Barrell.

“New Zealand is one of only a few countries in the World that manages red deer in a farming situation. The industry has been established for only about twenty years or so. This is why it is so important that we continue to build up a body of knowledge for deer farming from basic biological such as Erin’s that are carried out under the environmental conditions experienced by deer in this country.”

All research was approved by the Lincoln University Animal Ethics Committee.


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