Weaning is a time of year that can increase stress levels in your fawns causing morbidity and mortality in severe cases. This can be costly long term as your fawn inventory plays a significant role in future breeding options as well as consistent revenue streams.
Traditionally whitetail deer producers wean fawns between the ages of 3-4 months. This is a good time to handle animals as the weather (temperature) is changing in the northern regions of the country and the breeding season is right around the corner. During this time period does are physically limiting the amount of milk to their offspring and the fawns themselves have increased their consumption of grain and forage. They no longer need any milk from the doe to survive or flourish.
When we think of weaning in mother raised animals, conventional practices have always taught us to “pull” or physically separate fawns from their mothers and move them to separate pastures. This has been a long-standing practice for many farmers. At this time of weaning, vaccines, vitamins, minerals, pastes, antibiotics, wormers etc. have and can be administered. While I do not oppose this method, I have experienced a better way..
As I mentioned earlier, stress levels increase greatly at this physical weaning time when animals are taken from their mothers and placed in separate pastures. Many of these fawns are being handled for the first time outside of the initial protocols from birth. To more effectively manage this stress and potential onset of bacterial infection, I would strongly recommend that you consider the method of handling fawns 3 weeks prior to traditional weaning and implementing preventative medicine programs at this time. . In other words give all vaccine shots to your fawns three weeks prior to your physical separation.
By doing this we are preparing the fawns for the stresses of weaning. As mentioned previously, the physical separation of weaning creates stress. We know that stress suppresses immune responses and consequently will suppress the fawn’s ability to maximally respond to vaccine. When we vaccinate 3 weeks prior to weaning, we are priming the immune system so that the fawns can optimally respond to the booster vaccination at the time of weaning approximately 3 weeks later. This approach enables the fawn to develop a foundation of immunity that should be protective for 6 months to 1 year when applied with other management techniques.
It has been thought that many bacterial problems start in the gut and then transfer into the body during stressful periods when immune system is suppressed. It is common for weaned fawns to reduce their intake of feed during the days following weaning. These are the conditions that can sometimes facilitate bacterial transfer. If we can have an immune system response on board through vaccination prior to physical weaning, it is logical to assume the problems associated with weaning can be reduced greatly. Probiotic regimens can be implemented prior to weaning that provide beneficial bacteria loads that promote rumen health and help to reduce this risk in conjunction with vaccination. .
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