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Agriculture & Forestry, Vol. 64 Issue 1: 35-44, 2018, Podgorica
DOI: 10.17707/AgricultForest.64.1.04
Katarzyna TAJCHMAN,
Ruminant breeders, who strive to feed their animals properly, focus their
attention on three components of diet: metabolic energy, total protein and raw
fibre. Properly balanced nutrition should take into account another element, i.e.
the proper level of mineral-vitamin compounds.
The paper shows the effects of nutrition on the content of micro- and
macro-elements in the blood of farmed fallow deer reared in two systems. Male
calves constituted the main study group. All the animals had constant access to
water and hay. One of the groups of the animals kept in a special rearing house
received a complementary mineral feed mixture for calves “Cielak plus 2.5%”
produced by LNB (Cargill, Poland); the administration followed manufacturer’s
recommendations. Additionally, the feed contained fodder composed of 70% of
crushed oats, 15% of the “universal rapeseed concentrate” (producer: Eko-pasz,
Mońki, Poland) containing 33% of crude protein, and 15% of the “universal
soybean concentrate” (producer: Eko-pasz, Mońki, Poland) with 45% of crude
protein. The second group was reared in a free-range system outside the calf-shed
and was fed roughage feeds ad libitum.
The aim of this study was to determine the selected minerals in the plasma
of young farmed fallow deer. The blood was collected at slaughter, which is a
natural element in the farm rearing technology. Plasma P, Ca, Mg, Zn, Fe, and
Cu levels were determined. Specific reference intervals are needed for each
animal species for appropriate interpretation of haematological and serum
biochemical results. Serum biochemical parameters, such as phosphorus,
calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper and iron content, were determined using
reagent kits (BioMaxima, Lublin, Poland), according to manufacturer’s protocol
and a random access biochemical analyser Metrolab 2300 GL (Metrolab SA,
Buenos Aires, Argentine). The preliminary results confirm the beneficial effect
1Katarzyna Tajchman (corresponding author:, Department of
Ethology and Animal Welfare, University of Life Sciences in Lublin, POLAND; Marek
Bogdaszewski, Żaneta Steiner-Bogdaszewska, Paweł Bogdaszewski, Institute of Parasitology PAN,
Researche Station in Kosewo Górne, POLAND; Edyta Kowalczuk-Vasilev, Institute of Animal
Nutrition and Bromatology, University of Life Sciences in Lublin, POLAND
Paper presented at the 8th International Scientific Agricultural Symposium "AGROSYM 2017".
Notes: The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest. Authorship Form signed online.
Tajchman et al.
of feeding young animals diets containing higher protein contents and mineral
Keywords: Dama dama, nutrition, micro- and macro-elements.
In Poland, Cervidae breeding was made possible by virtue of the Act of 29
June 2007 on organisation of breeding and reproduction of farmed animals
(Journal of Laws 2007 no. 133, item 921). As specified in chapter 1, Art. 2, Par.
1 c), Cervidae species such as the red deer (Cervus elaphus), sika deer (Cervus
nippon), and fallow deer (Dama dama) reared in farm conditions for production
of meat and pelts are classified as livestock animals if they originate from closed
or free-range rearing and breeding systems. In other countries, other cervid
rearing and breeding objectives are additionally implemented, i.e. panty
production (antlers in a growth form) and the use of animals in tourism and
agritourism (Janiszewski et al., 2014, Dmuchowski 2003).
To provide their animals with proper nutrition, breeders focus on three
nutritional components of feed, i.e. metabolic energy, total protein, and raw fibre.
Properly balanced diets should provide an appropriate level of mineral-vitamin
compounds as well. Cervidae, including the fallow deer, are characterised by
special nutritional requirements and are particularly susceptible to mineral
compound deficiencies due to the increased demand for minerals during the
period of development and ossification of antlers. This is a special time during
the rearing period, as osteoporosis of the skeletal system may then develop,
leading to weakening of the organism.
In Cervidae, the quality of the first antler is an indicator of the ontogenetic
quality and a phenotypic trait that can reflect the quality of food (Gaspar-Lopez
et al., 2008). In the farm breeding practice, there is a possibility and, hence, a
necessity to offer animals appropriate living conditions directly after birth and to
provide properly balanced nutrition to hinds and calves immediately after
The research was carried out at the Research Station of the Institute of
Parasitology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Kosewo Górne, Poland, in 2014-2016.
Eighteen male calves constituted the main study group. All animals had constant
ad libitum access to water and hay. The fallow deer were divided into two groups
of equal size. One group was kept in a special rearing building and the other one
was reared in a free-range system.
Each animal received 260 g of a mixture per day with the following
composition: 70% of crushed oats in 15% of “universal rapeseed concentrate”
(producer: Eko-pasz, Mońki, Poland) containing 33% of crude protein, and in
15% of “universal soybean concentrate” (producer: Eko-pasz, Mońki, Poland)
with 45% crude protein content. Additionally, the diet was supplemented with a
complementary mineral feed mixture for calves “Cielak plus 2,5%” (produced by
LNB, Cargill, Polska) in accordance with manufacturer’s recommendations. Our
Mineral concentrations in the plasma of young farmed fallow deer
unpublished observations revealed homogeneous feed intake by the animals,
although the exact level of feed intake by each animal was not determined.
The effects of intensive nutrition with the use of the diet described above
on the blood levels of micro- and macro-elements in the farmed fallow deer
reared in two different systems were analysed. The aim of this study was to
determine selected minerals in plasma in young farmed fallow deer. Blood was
collected at slaughter in the second year of animals’ age (August 2016). Plasma P,
Ca, Mg, Zn, Fe, and Cu levels were determined. Specific reference intervals are
needed for each animal species for appropriate interpretation of haematological
and serum biochemical results. Serum biochemical parameters, such as
phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper and iron content, were determined
using reagent kits (BioMaxima, Lublin, Poland) according to the manufacturer’s
protocol and a random access biochemical analyser Metrolab 2300 GL (Metrolab
SA, Buenos Aires, Argentine).
The animal body weight was measured at the beginning (November 2014)
and end (May 2015) of the study period and in August 2016. The measurements
were carried out with the use of a set of MP 800 sensors coupled with a Tru-test
DR 3000 weight reader. As declared by the manufacturer, the accuracy of this set
is +/- 1% and the minimum resolution is 0,1 kg. To obtain additional information
about the ontogeny of the young fallow deer males, the growing antlers with the
pedicle (at the skull base) were measured twice. The measurements were done at
the age of 11 and 26 months using a tape measure and the mean values of the
measurement of both beams were noted (in each case, the differences in the
length did not exceed 1 cm).
All the data were analysed with Statistica software ver. 10 (StatSoft, Tulsa,
OK, US, 2011). The normality was assessed using the Kolmogorov-Smirnov test,
and Levene’s homogeneity of variance test was applied to examine the equality
of variances. The data obtained were analysed with the ANOVA method using
one-way analysis of variance and calculating the mean values for the treatments,
standard deviation (SD), and the standard error of the mean (SEM). The means
were compared using Tukey’s test. All statements of significance were based on a
probability P≤0.05 and P values between 0.05 and 0.1 were considered as a trend.
A positive effect of the mineral supplementation before the second year of
age of the fallow deer was observed. Animals receiving the supplemented diet
exhibited increased plasma levels of the analysed minerals (Zn, P, Mg, Cu, Ca,
Fe). Higher contents of some mineral compounds were found in the animals kept
in the calf-shed. The values were higher on average by 5,46 umol/l, 2,82 umol/l,
and 0,23 mmol/l in the case of iron, zinc, and phosphorus, respectively. The
levels of magnesium, calcium, and copper did not differ substantially and were
slightly higher in animals receiving the additional supplementation. Significant
statistical differences in the level of calcium were noted between the groups. Its
mean content in the control group was 2,3 mmol/l +0,12, and a higher value, i.e.
Tajchman et al.
2,42 mmol/l +0,12, was determined in the experimental group, which indicates a
high demand of fallow deer for calcium as well as magnesium, phosphorus, and
copper during the development and mineralisation of antlers (Table 1, Table 2).
Table1. Comparison of content of selected micro- and macro elements (Zn, P,
Mg, Cu, Ca, Fe) in fallow deer plasma.
control group
Besides the higher levels of the minerals in the plasma of the farmed
fallow deer, a positive effect of the mineral supplementation on the growth of the
first antlers was shown. The antlers were on average by ca. 2 cm longer in the
animals kept in the calf-shed during the first measurements and by 3,6 cm longer
in the subsequent year. Additionally, more uniform growth of antlers was
observed in the animals receiving the supplemented diet.
Mineral concentrations in the plasma of young farmed fallow deer
Table 2. Analysis of the variation of micro- and macro element content in plasma
between groups with standard deviation of probability at the level P≤0,05.
mean ± SD
experimental mean ± SD
P value
Zn umol/l
8.19 ± 1.30
11.00 ± 4.33
P mmol/l
1.78 ± 0.29
2.01 ± 0.24
Mg mmol/l
0.80 ± 0.06
0.86 ± 0.08
Cu umol/l
14.58 ± 0.88
14.84 ± 1.77
Ca mmol/l
2.30b ± 0.12
2.42a ± 0.12
Fe umol/l
25.88 ± 8.21
31.34 ± 8.01
During the investigations, the animals were weighed. The fallow deer from
the experimental group exhibited higher body weight (by approx. 4,5 kg) at the
age of 11 months and weighed on average ca. 32,3 kg. In turn, the control
animals weighed on average 30,2 kg. After 26 months, more equal body weight
gains were noted in both groups, which may be associated with the identical diets
provided to the animals in the two groups in the second year. The mean body
weight of the animals from the two groups differed only by 0,3 kg in that period.
The animals from the group fed with the supplemented diet reached a body
weight of 42,6 kg (Table 3).
The analysis of changes in the biometric parameters revealed a significant
difference between the control group and the group of animals fed with the
supplemented diet. After 11 months, the mean body weight of the animals from
the former group was 28,5 kg +2,38, while the animals from the latter group were
characterised by higher values, i.e. 32,3 kg + 4,08 (Table 4). Significant
correlations between the groups were shown in the animal body weight gain after
26 months. The groups differed between each other, i.e. the body weight gain
was 18,1 kg + 2.88 in the control group and 14,9 kg + 2,77 in the experimental
group. There were also significant correlations in terms of the antler growth
values between the groups in both measurement periods. The mean antler length
after 11 months was 2,5 cm + 0,81 in the control group and 4,5 cm + 2,28 in the
experimental group. After 26 months, the mean antler length was 9,7 kg + 2,26,
whereas a higher value, i.e. 13,3 kg + 2,99, was noted in the experimental group
(Table 4).
The results of this study are comparable to those presented in the literature.
In their investigations of the red deer, Peinado et al. (1999) reported a plasma
calcium concentration of 2,24 mmol/l and an elevated level of phosphorus, i.e.
3,87 mmol/l. The concentrations of calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium
determined by Kuba (2014) (mean values: Ca- 1,96 mmol/l, P- 1,83 mmol/l, Mg-
0,6 mol/l) were lower than the values in the non-supplemented fallow deer kept
in the free-range system (Ca- 2,30 mmol/l, P-1,76 mmol/l, Mg- 0,8 mmol/l). This
may be associated with the better quality of the standard diets provided in the
farm where the present study was carried out.
Tajchman et al.
Table 3. Body weight and length of antler at fallow deer in the sixth, eleventh,
and 26th month of life.
Mineral concentrations in the plasma of young farmed fallow deer
Table 4. Analysis of body weight variance and antler length between fallow deer
groups with a standard deviation of probability at the P≤0,05.
mean ± SD
mean ± SD
Initial body weight (kg)
(animals 6-month)
27.72 ± 2.08
27.77 ± 3.91
Final body weight (kg)
(animals 11-month)
30.22 ± 2.14
32.28 ± 4.08
Increase body weight
2.50b ± 1.39
4.50a ± 1.64
Average length antlers (cm)
(animals 11-month)
2.5b ± 0.81
4.5a ± 2.28
mass of 26 months old
animals (kg)
42.28 ± 2.75
42.67 ± 4.47
Increase body weight
14.56 ± 3.08
14.89 ± 2.77
Average length
antlers after 26 months (cm)
9.7b ± 2.26
13.3a ± 2.99
Increase antlers
7.2 ± 1.73
8.8 ± 2.21
Fallow deer plasma was sampled in summer, a year after the
supplementation. In this period, animals should not suffer from nutritional
deficiencies due to the good quality of pastures. Yet, relatively large differences
in the plasma content of micro- and macroelements were observed between the
supplemented and non-supplemented animal groups. This indicates a low level of
compensation of nutritional deficiencies arising at a younger age, in particular
during the weaning period, when animals should receive special care. The
composition of the hinds’ milk itself has a significant effect on Cervidae. It has
been shown in the Iberian red deer (Cervus elaphus hispanicus) that the
composition of milk exerts an impact on the morphological traits of the first
antler, in particular its length. The length of the antler was measured from the
value of 2,5 cm to the end of its growth. Between weeks 2 and 8, the gain was
inconsiderable, i.e. from 0,5-3,0 cm to 1-19,0 cm. The greatest increase in the
length, i.e. 10,0-55,0 cm, was noted between week 8 and 20. In the final period of
growth between week 20 and 28, the antler length was 21,5-55,5 cm. In
comparison with wild-living animals in which the length of the first antler can be
highly variable in some individuals and range from 15 cm to 60 cm, it can be
observed that the value is stable in most individuals provided with adequate
nutrition and reaches on average 38,3 cm (Gaspar-Lopez et al., 2008). This thesis
is also confirmed by the results of the present study carried out on farmed fallow
Tajchman et al.
The issue of appropriate feeding is especially important in Cervidae calves,
whose survival of the first winter depends on proper body weight (Fenessy et al.,
1991). Studies have shown that early growth in young animals, especially in
males, is highly important, as it determines some antler traits (weight and length)
in adult deer and influences future reproductive success (Gómez et al., 2006,
2008, Landete-Castillejos et al., 2007 a).
In favourable environmental conditions ensuring good health status of
animals, the young red deer can begin puberty up to two months earlier (at the
age of 14-16 months) (Asher and Cox, 2013). On the other hand, adverse
conditions can considerably delay this moment even until the third or fourth
autumn after birth. This boundary is unstable and is reached when animals
achieve 65-70% of the target weight, which is an effect of the availability and
quality of feed (Asher et al., 2011, Cilulko, 2011).
Most studies on cervid nutrition conducted so far have mainly been
focused on the content and quality of proteins and energy compounds. However,
the role of micro- and macroelements, in particular calcium, phosphorus, and
magnesium, is highly important. These mineral compounds build up the antler
bone mass in Cervidae (Landete-Castillejos et al., 2007 b). Special attention
should be paid to the high demand of Cervidae for calcium, which is supplied
with feed only in 25-40%, while the other amount originates from the pool
deposited in their bones (Muir et al., 1987).
The effect of supplementation of diets in farmed Iberian red deer (Cervus
elaphus hispanicus) has been investigated. For three years post weaning, the
animals were administered higher amounts of mineral compounds, i.e. Ca, P, Mg,
K, Na, S, Cu, Fe, Mn, Se, Zn, B, and Sr, in a complementary diet. The higher
availability of the micronutrients in the feed was reflected in the chemical
composition and mechanical properties of bones. A significant difference in
biometric parameters was shown between the control group and animals
receiving the supplemented diet. The mean body weight of animals from the
former group was 83,6 kg +1.6; in the latter group, the value was higher, i.e. 90,1
kg + 1,4. Similarly, the KFI value differed between the groups and was 65,42 kg
+ 9,9% and 131,26 kg + 13,7%, respectively. No differences in the chest
circumference, body length, femur length, cortical thickness, or mechanical
properties were found (Olguin et al., 2013).
The results have demonstrated a beneficial effect of mineral
supplementation on the weight and form of antlers and the ontogenic quality of
the animals. A significant correlation was observed in the case of calcium, whose
plasma content was higher in the experimental group and which appeared to be
the most vital macroelement for the structure of antlers. The other micro- and
macroelements (Zn, P, Mg, Cu) also play an important role in farmed fallow
deer. Their plasma content was also higher in the supplemented group. Therefore,
special attention should be placed on mineral-vitamin supplementation during the
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Full-text available
Few studies in wild animals have assessed changes in mineral profile in long bones and their implications for mechanical properties. We examined the effect of two diets differing in mineral content on the composition and mechanical properties of femora from two groups each with 13 free-ranging red deer hinds. Contents of Ca, P, Mg, K, Na, S, Cu, Fe, Mn, Se, Zn, B and Sr, Young's modulus of elasticity (E), bending strength and work of fracture were assessed in the proximal part of the diaphysis (PD) and the mid-diaphysis (MD). Whole body measures were also recorded on the hinds. Compared to animals on control diets, those on supplemented diets increased live weight by 6.5 kg and their kidney fat index (KFI), but not carcass weight, body or organ size, femur size or cortical thickness. Supplemental feeding increased Mn content of bone by 23%, Cu by 9% and Zn by 6%. These differences showed a mean fourfold greater content of these minerals in supplemental diet, whereas femora did not reflect a 5.4 times greater content of major minerals (Na and P) in the diet. Lower content of B and Sr in supplemented diet also reduced femur B by 14% and Sr by 5%. There was a subtle effect of diet only on E and none on other mechanical properties. Thus, greater availability of microminerals but not major minerals in the diet is reflected in bone composition even before marked body effects, bone macro-structure or its mechanical properties are affected.
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Deer antlers are bony fighting structures which are unique in that they are both easily accessible for analysis and that they are grown every year; thus, they make up good models for the study of bones. Previous studies have shown that antler bone composition is related to the external quality (antler size and weight) and the mechanical quality of the antlers, and that it reflects mineral nutrition and early growth. Because one of the main nutritional factors influencing early growth is maternal milk production and composition, and because lactation plays an important role in post-weaning growth, we set out to examine whether milk yield and composition are correlated with the mineral composition of spike antlers of 22 yearling Iberian red deer Cervus elaphus hispanicus. Total milk protein yield was positively associated with ash, Ca and P content in antler, inversely with K content, but no relationship was found for Na, Mg, Fe or Zn. This association was evidently exerted through an increase in calf growth during lactation, because in the model, the inclusion of calf weight gain up to week 18 (approximately the age at weaning) rendered milk production and composition non-significant. However, this correlation was not observed for the minor minerals Na, Mg, Fe and Zn. Gains during lactation, but not between lactation and antler growth, influenced the composition of major minerals. Manipulating milk quality could not only affect general calf growth, but also antler quality and very likely the quality of other bones, as well as mechanical performance, which is linked to ash or Ca content.
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Analyses of blood chemical parameters were carried out in eight axis deer (Cervus axis), 12 fallow deer (Cervus dama), 16 red deer (Cervus elaphus hippelaphus), three sambar (Cervus unicolor), nine Père David deer (Elaphurus davidianus), 20 European bison (Bison bonasus), seven nilgai (Boselaphus tragocamelus), eight mouflon (Ovis musimon), four white-bearded gnu (Connochaetes taurinus) and six barbary sheep (Ammotragus lervia). The following parameters were determined: glucose, urea, uric acid, cholesterol, triglycerides, creatinine, total bilirubin, aspartate aminotransferase, alanine aminotransferase, alkaline phosphatase, creatinine phosphokinase, lactate dehydrogenase, γ-glutamyl transpeptidase, total serum proteins, albumin, globulins, albumin/globulin ratio, sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, magnesium, total phosphorus and serum osmolality. Some trends and statistically significant differences were observed between the species and the young and adult groups.
This study, based on the analysis of growth and reproductive records of 6158 young red deer hinds, tested the hypothesis that the nutritional environment in early life influences the permissive body mass threshold for puberty at around 16 months of age. Live-weight at 3 months (i.e. weaning weight) was a proxy for their nutritional environment between birth and weaning, live-weight at 14 months was the indicator of pre-mating body mass, and pregnancy status at 18-19 months was a proxy for entry into puberty. Data were obtained for two sub-populations of hinds, the commercial stud herds, across four consecutive years. The modelled relationships between pre-mating live-weight and the predicted pregnancy rate demonstrated between-year variation for the logistic curves for the commercial herd for the live-weight range from 50 to 90kg (P<0.001). For the stud herd, the predicted pregnancy rate at any given live-weight did not vary significantly between years (P>0.05) and the pregnancy rates for live-weights <90kg were higher than for the commercial herd. The regression of average weaning weight on probability of pregnancy showed significant positive associations (P<0.05) at 60kg, 70kg and 80kg (R(2)=0.513, 0.517 and 0.439, respectively). There were no significant regressions at pre-joining live-weights at 90kg or above (P>0.05). The study supports the central hypothesis of early-life influences on the permissive body mass threshold for entry into puberty.
Kinetic studies of Ca metabolism, using ⁴⁵ CaCl 32 , were carried out on two mature red deer stags during the period of maximum rate of Ca deposition in the antlers. They were offered green-feed oats to provide energy for maintenance; the diet provided approximately 42mg Ca/kg W per day. Ca appeared to be irreversibly lost from the circulation into the antlers and could be treated for kinetic purposes in the same way as loss of Ca from the body in milk. The size of the rapidly exchangeable Ca pool in the body, excluding the antlers, was 0·21 g/kg W, similar to estimates for lactating cattle. Rates of Ca deposition in the antlers of the two stags, calculated from the model of Ca metabolism, were 58·4 and 38·6 mg Ca/kg W per day. Net endogenous loss was 6–7 mg Ca/kg W per day, much lower than estimates available for other ruminant species. Only 25–40% of Ca requirement or 11–24 mg Ca/kg W per day was derived from the diet, suggesting that the availability of Ca in greenfeed oats is much lower than current estimates for forages. Bones removed on completion of the experiment showed evidence of considerable skeletal demineralization. In other stags subjected to stable Ca balances at the same stage of antler growth, while consuming ryegrass-white clover forage, 60–80% of Ca requirement was derived from the diet, with calculated rates of true absorption of 32–46 mg Ca/kg W per day. These rates of Ca absorption are low compared with values observed in other ruminants at times of high Ca demand such as during lactation.
In this study, we describe the process of pedicle and first antler growth in Iberian red deer (Cervus elaphus hispanicus) and document relationships among body development, maternal milk supply and composition, and maternal weight on the length of first antlers. Antler length of 53 males of Iberian red deer was measured every 2weeks from birth to 20months of age. Deer weight, age, and the date of occurrence of the major events during the antler growth cycle were also recorded. The first evidence of pedicle development occurred when the animals were 38.0 ± 0.6weeks old and weighed 60.7 ± 0.9kg. Antler cleaning took place at a mean age of 63.8 ± 0.7weeks and a mean weight of 91.5 ± 1.8kg. The antler growth period lasted 16.7 ± 0.4weeks, and the cleaning period lasted 5.1 ± 0.4weeks. First antler growth followed a sigmoid curve, reaching a final length of 38.3 ± 1.0cm. Antler length was positively correlated with body weight during the antler growth cycle. Additionally, the final length of the first antler was related to total milk yield, date of antler growth initiation, body weight at 6months of age, and the antler growth time interval.
Milk minerals are important for calf growth, and they have other roles as well, such as immune regulation. This 2-yr study examined content of Ca, P, Mg, Na, K, Fe, and Zn in milk of 54 Iberian red deer hinds through 18 wk of lactation. Mean mineral composition of fresh milk was ash = 1.168 +/- 0.007%, Ca = 2,330 +/- 20 mg/kg, P = 640 +/- 10 mg/kg, K = 1,100 +/- 10 mg/kg, Na = 385 +/- 3 mg/kg, Mg = 138 +/- 1 mg/kg, Zn = 12.5 +/- 0.2 mg/kg, and Fe = 0.65 +/- 0.03 mg/kg. All minerals except Mg varied by week of lactation, but variation was usually <10% except for Fe (83% variation) and Zn (30% variation); both of those minerals increased as lactation proceeded. Increased concentrations of Fe and Zn in later lactation compensated for the reduction in milk production in mid and late lactation such that daily production was less variable for Fe (55% variation) or Zn (79% variation) than for other minerals (118 to 135% variation). Potassium content of milk decreased across time, but that effect occurred primarily during the last few weeks of lactation. Calving later vs. early in the calving season had variable effects on concentrations of different minerals: P, Mg, and K concentrations were not affected; Ca, Mg, and Na were all lower in milk from later calving hinds; and both Fe and Zn had higher concentrations in milk from hinds that calved later in the season. Lactating hinds seem to maintain a more stable daily yield of the microminerals Fe and Zn in milk compared with more variable concentrations of macrominerals as lactation progresses. Because of the essential role of Fe and Zn in immune function, a more stable supply of those minerals might be important to the health of growing red deer calves.
Researchers have devoted little attention to the possibility that the chemical composition of bone might be variable under normal nutrition conditions. This study assessed antler bone composition of 25 one-year old deer (spikes). Antler content of ash, Ca, P, K, Na, Mg, Fe and Zn was assessed in base and tine, and the mean composition or the difference in composition between tine and base was used to explain variability in antler length, weight and perimeter. In turn, mean composition and difference in concentration of each mineral were related to body measures at 1 year of age, weight at birth, weight at 1 year of age and weight gains during lactation, or between weaning and year of age. Chemical composition differed between base and tine in ash, Ca, P, K, Zn and Fe, but not in Na or Mg. Composition explained a mean variability of 77% in antler length and weight. Body weight and size, in turn, influenced mineral composition. The greatest body effect was that of gains during lactation on principal components analysis factor related to Ca, P and other major minerals such as Na, K or Mg. Antler bone composition is variable in normal conditions and such variability may play a role in biomechanical properties of the antler, but it is also likely to show the nutritional status or physiological effort to grow antlers. Assessing bone composition may emerge as a new useful tool to obtain information regarding bone biology and its bearer in other species including ours.