Do Deer Eat Alfalfa?

A deer’s diet is made up of various twigs, leaves, and vegetation found in their natural habitats. However, these ungulates have occasionally been known to trespass onto human property and consume multiple crops.

One of these crops is alfalfa. Deer do eat alfalfa and have been known to do significant damage to alfalfa fields.

Do Deer Eat Alfalfa?

Yes, deer eat alfalfa. This luscious green crop, scientifically known as Medicago sativa, is full of nutrients and is often used to feed various livestock.

Alfalfa, by nature, is a popular feed choice for various animals and healthy addition to both human and animal diets. In fact, it is the fourth largest crop plant in the United States and is currently planted on over 26 million acres. \

Given that, it would be safe to say that these plants are relatively widespread and easy to obtain.

Deer have been observed to be highly attracted to alfalfa. They have been known to forage it or trespass into human settlements to consume alfalfa crops.

The effect these animals have on this crop’s yields is so significant that several farmers have taken to building barriers to keep them out of alfalfa plantations.

However, it is important to remember that deer only feed on these crops when their typical food sources are running low or completely unavailable.

What Kinds of Alfalfa Do Deer Eat?

Do Deer Eat Alfalfa?

Deer can eat all kinds of alfalfa. While they are most often observed eating them right off the ground, deer are also drawn to other forms of alfalfa.

Alfalfa Crops

One of the greatest struggles that alfalfa farmers face is the trespassing deer that consume their crops. These animals can consume so much alfalfa that they are among the leading devastators of alfalfa yield.

When consumed straight from the ground, deer prefer the luscious, ripe, green crops such as full-grown alfalfa and seedlings. Dried-up alfalfa is unappealing to these animals and is often ignored.

Alfalfa Pellets

Because they are generally used as animal fodder, alfalfa can sometimes be manufactured into different feed forms. One such example would be the alfalfa pellets.

These pellets are often mixed with other animal feed to provide livestock with protein, fiber, and calcium.

These pellets can also be fed to deer and are typically soaked in water before consumption to allow for easy chewing.

On a side note, alfalfa pellets are also great fertilizers due to their high nitrogen content. So, if you do use these in your garden, you might want to keep an eye out for potential trespassing deer.

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Alfalfa Cubes

Animal feed alfalfa can also come in cube forms. These cubes, much like the pellets, are excellent sources of digestible energy, protein, and fiber.

Feeding deer alfalfa cubes can be a great idea. Just keep in mind that they like their cubes fresh, green, and without moisture.

Much like the pellets, some people soak the cubes before feeding them to the animals. Deer don’t like that and will most likely ignore wet cubes.

Alfalfa Bales

Deer have also been known to flock towards alfalfa bales that concerned citizens leave out to supplement their diet. It is among the only types of hay bales that these animals have been seen to eat.

Again, ensure these bales are still fresh and moist, as dry stalks will not attract deer. It’s also best to shake out the bale as deer may have trouble recognizing and going through a tightly packed bale.

What Nutrients Can Deer Get From Alfalfa?

Do Deer Eat Alfalfa?

Alfalfa is considered a superfood for humans and should very well be considered one for deer, too. These plants are rich in several nutrients that the deer need to develop into strong, healthy ungulates.

  • Protein

To best obtain sturdy builds and support strong antler growth, deer require a diet of 12 to 16 percent crude protein from plants and other vegetation they feed on.

Alfalfa is a terrific source of protein that can provide up to 12 to 15 percent crude protein. Given that, this crop can optimally support the deer’s growth and development in build and antler growth.

  • Fiber

The deer’s digestive system is heavily reliant on fiber. This nutrient is responsible for the muscle contractions that allow the rumen to process and digest food properly. It can also serve as an alternative source for other supplements the deer may need.

To sustain the deer’s daily needs of 12 to 20 percent crude fiber, alfalfa hay can supplement their diet as it contains around 20 to 28 percent fiber.

  • Calcium

Deer typically do not consume items that are rich in calcium as this nutrient can be hard to get by. Instead, it relies on its internal chemical reactions to manufacture the calcium it needs to support its bones and antlers.

Most hay does not have calcium, except for alfalfa which can contain up to 1.27 percent calcium. This makes alfalfa hay an excellent calcium supplement to support deer’s skeletal tissues and encourage strong antler growth.

Is Alfalfa Bad For Deer?

Some people believe that alfalfa is terrible for deer. Conflicting information and debates about whether this plant is bad for deer are rampant on the internet. However, no concrete proof supports the idea that alfalfa is bad for deer.

If large amounts of it are consumed, alfalfa can cause deer stomachs to bloat. Occasionally, this can prove deadly for the animal, but these cases are few.

There are also concerns that deer stomachs are not equipped to digest alfalfa due to its cellulose content.

However, deer have long adapted to be able to consume grass, and other plants with cellulose, so consuming alfalfa should be no problem for this animal.

Several people also warn against feeding these ungulates alfalfa during the winter as the bacterial makeup of their stomachs changes during the cold seasons.

No evidence has been presented to support this theory, but people do tend to take it with a grain of salt.

For the most part, while it is not part of their typical diet, deer have been observed to consume alfalfa without any observable problems (aside from bloating) or untoward manifestations to their health.

Conclusion

Deer can consume alfalfa, especially during the spring to fall seasons when these plants thrive. Several hunters have also taken to using alfalfa in many different forms to attract deer to areas close to hunting season.

This superfood plant can provide these animals with several nutrients.

However, before you go around feeding your local deer with alfalfa, make sure you check with your local regulations, as some states ban the use of alfalfa or the act of feeding or baiting deer altogether.

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