Horny’s Big Buck Blend teamed up with Michigan State University to develop the optimal mineral supplementation program for deer. Supplementation can play an important role in herd health and management. A useful resource to learn about herd management is the work of the Quality Deer Management Association, QDMA.

According to a QDMA article by Brad Howard and QDMA CEO Brian Murphy, mineral supplementation has been researched on livestock for overall health, but is often confined to antler growth and buck size in deer. At Horny’s, we support the health of the whole herd.

To understand the Horny’s difference, it’s important to understand the biology of white tail deer. The excerpt of the QDMA article below gives a great summary of the biological process and the history of research in this field.

Antler Growth

No discussion about ways to increase antler production should begin without first discussing what is known about antler growth. During spring, the onset of antler growth is triggered by changes in photoperiod (day length). What follows is a complicated process of hormone release and changes in the deer’s body to enable the rapid transfer of nutrients and minerals to the growing antlers. This process continues until late summer when a sharp increase in the male hormone, testosterone, stimulates antler hardening and velvet shedding. This whole process occurs in about 5-6 months. Chemical composition of antlers Growing antlers are comprised mostly of proteins (80 percent by weight); whereas, mature (hardened) antlers are comprised of roughly equal amounts of proteins and minerals. Studies have shown that calcium and phosphorus are by far the two most common minerals in deer antlers comprising nearly 30-35 percent of the mature antler by weight. However, they are not the only minerals present. A University of Georgia study (Miller et al. 1985) detected 11 different minerals in the whitetail’s antlers. In addition to calcium (19.01 percent) and phosphorous (10.13 percent), the next two most common elements reported in the Georgia study were magnesium (1.09 percent) and sodium (0.50 percent). Lesser amounts of other minerals were found including potassium, barium, iron, aluminum, zinc, strontium, and manganese. Other than calcium and phosphorous, little is known about the role of these other minerals in antler growth. Mobilization of minerals during antler growth

Clearly minerals are important in antler development. Because of the large quantities of minerals required for antler growth, whitetails actually deposit calcium and phosphorous in their skeletons prior to the onset of antler growth and then transfer these minerals during active growth (Stephenson and Brown 1984). However, these body sources of calcium and phosphorous provide only a portion of that needed for optimum antler growth. The remainder must come directly from their diet while their antlers are actively growing. Therefore, supplementation of these minerals prior to and during antler growth may be beneficial. While deer have the ability to “stockpile” calcium and phosphorous, this is not true for the majority of other minerals found in antlers. As in humans, many “trace minerals” such as barium, aluminum, zinc, and strontium are toxic in large quantities and must be excreted from the deer’s body. As a result, these minerals must be consumed in very small quantities (parts per million) on a regular basis. Despite their presence in antlers, the role of trace minerals in antler growth is largely unknown.

Horny’s Premium Minerals – The Magic is in the Mix

According to the QDMA , research on several species of domestic livestock has documented numerous benefits of mineral supplementation including increased forage intake, improved forage digestion, and increased reproductive success. In contrast, most studies on mineral supplementation in whitetails have focused on the impacts on body weight and antler development, with little regard to the other myriad benefits of supplementation.

While the QDMA position on the research to date on antler growth and body weight is inconclusive due to a dearth of modern funded studies, the organization advises those managing deer herd to pay attention to the mix when supplementing with minerals:

 When selecting a mix, there are several things you should consider. The first is the calcium to phosphorus ratio. The mix should contain as much of these minerals as possible while containing enough salt to encourage use by deer. In general, there should be at least 1.5-2.0 times as much calcium as phosphorus. This is the approximate ratio of these minerals in mature antlers. Many of the new commercial mineral mixes meet or exceed this ratio and also contain a wide range of trace minerals and even certain vitamins that may provide some benefit to deer. As with any product, read the label carefully before deciding which one to purchase. Most of the better mineral mixes contain less than 50 percent salt with some containing as little as 25 percent salt. Without added sweeteners, however, deer generally will not utilize mineral mixes containing less than 25 percent salt. Therefore, you may have to start with a relatively high concentration of salt then reduce it over time until deer use starts to decline. Your long-term goal should be to provide as much mineral as you can with the lowest concentration of salt.

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