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Do Deer Eat Alfalfa? (Best Answer!)

Deer eat alfalfa; in fact, if you have an alfalfa plantation and live in areas where deer are present. Then you have to be ready for regular visits from them.

Do you want to know what types of deer eat alfalfa, how you can protect your alfalfa plant from deer, and the nutritional benefits alfalfa provides, plus much more?

Then read on, for, in this article, you will find answers to these questions.

Do deer like to eat alfalfa?

Deer like eating alfalfa so much that experts have reported that they directly affect alfalfa yields in certain areas. For instance, a significant deer invasion into an alfalfa farm will lower output since they will damage most of the crop.

A farmer in an alfalfa field at harvest checking the crop.
A farmer checking an alfalfa crop in the late afternoon light. A tractor is windrowing in far in the background

This is especially true in some of the leading alfalfa-producing states, such as California, Nevada, Montana, and Wyoming, as these states also have plenty of deer.

Generally, deer prefer sweet plants that don’t have a strong scent and are easy to digest. Alfalfa more than meets all of these requirements.

In addition, alfalfa constitutes a large amount of easy to digest fibre, making it an ideal food for deer.

Can deer smell alfalfa?

Many plants dry out during the winter, which means lesser food for deer. Therefore, they have to move around searching for it.

After years of evolution, deer have developed a strong sense of smell that helps them locate food, detect predators, and find mates.

To put it into perspective, a deer’s sense of smell is 1/3 times stronger than that of a dog.

So yes, deer can smell alfalfa, and they can do so from far away.

Can all species of deer eat alfalfa?

Scientists are yet to document any species of deer that doesn’t eat alfalfa. Hence, it would be improper to state otherwise.

However, what is certain is that the deer species found in areas with plenty of alfalfa are avid fans of the plant.

The table below indicates regions that produce the highest amounts of alfalfa and deer species present in that area.

StateDeer species present
WyomingMule deer, White-tailed deer
NevadaMule deer
CaliforniaCalifornia mule deer, Columbian black-tailed deer, Feral mule deer, Rocky Mountain mule deer, and Southern mule deer
MontanaWhite-tailed deer, Mule deer
IdahoWhite-tailed deer, Mule deer

After looking at the table above, you will notice that White-tailed deer and Mule deer are predominantly present.

Thus, it will not be wrong to conclude these two species of deer love alfalfa the most compared to other deer species.

Are there poisonous species of alfalfa that deer cannot eat?

Alfalfa, the scientific name Medicago sativa, comes in over 200 varieties, but researchers are yet to identify any among them that could be poisonous to deer.

When do deer eat alfalfa?

Deer are opportunistic feeders, meaning they will eat anything within their reach no matter the time of the year.

However, when there is plenty of food available, deer become somewhat picky and prefer more of the highly nutritious plants.

Studies have shown that deer eat a lot of alfalfa during the summertime than any season.

Even so, considering that alfalfa has plenty of nutrients, deer will munch on the plant during any time of the year. The difference will only be in quantity.

The nutritional benefit of alfalfa to deer

Earlier in the article, we learned that alfalfa provides deer with many nutrients. The table below shows the percentage nutrient composition of 100grams of Alafia.

Nutrient/ MineralPercentage
Copper5%
Iron7%
Magnesium2%
Manganese15%
Vitamin B113%
Vitamin B210%
Vitamin C8%
Folate9%
Proteins20%
Carbohydrates11%

As you can see, the nutrients and minerals alfalfa provides immensely help deer grow and aid antler development.

How to feed alfalfa to deer

  • Developing an alfalfa plot
  • Alfalfa Cubes
  • Alfalfa Pellets

Let us look at each of these methods.

Developing an Alfalfa plot.

An alfalfa food plot is compelling as the deer obtain the nutrients fresh from the source, just like in the wild. The only difference being you plant and maintain the crop.

To set up a good alfalfa food plot, you will need to set aside a sizeable piece of land to grow the alfalfa.

After planting, you will need to check the crops for pest and weed infestations regularly. Since alfalfa is highly susceptible to attacks from pests such as aphids, potatoes, leafhoppers, and clover beetles.

One main advantage of alfalfa is its perennial crop, meaning it will grow back for several years. All you will have to do is take care of it.

Once the alfalfa has grown, you can open the gates to allow the deer to feed freely.

Experts recommend adequate fencing of the alfalfa food plot o ensure you control the amount of alfalfa the deer consume.

Also, note that this method is preferable for larger deer herds as it is rather capital intensive than the other methods.

Alfalfa Cubes

Alafia cubes are made by drying the crop and then chopping it into cubes for the feeding of deer.

You can feed deer alfalfa cubes by

Weight

Deers eat about three to four pounds of their body weight per day. Hence, you should provide the deer with at least 1.5% of their body weight in the form of alfalfa cubes.

Dry or Wet

Once you have decided on the number of alfalfa cubes you need to provide, you can now offer it to the deer dry or wet.

In the wild, deer are used to eating hardy crops, so they will not have much problem with the dry cubes.

However, you can make it easier for them to chew by spraying the alfalfa cubes with water.

Alfalfa Pellets

Wildlife experts recommend alfalfa pellets for the younger deer as they are easier to chew. Nevertheless, you can feed them to any deer present; all you need to ensure is that the pellets are in good condition.

Similar to alfalfa cubes, you can provide the pellets dry or wet.

Points to note before feeding alfalfa to deer

Firstly, you need to check your area legislations for any laws that may prohibit the feeding of deer.

Secondly, if you provide the deer with too much alfalfa, they may die from starvation, which is especially common during winter times.

The reason is that deer have a sophisticated digestive system. Hence, deer stomachs can fail to digest some types of feed, leading to cases of them dying with full bellies. That is why it is highly advised to offer diverse choices to deer choose from fruits, vegetables, nuts, and shrubs. Some good examples are carrots, cabbages, bananas, mock orange, almonds, peanuts, green and kidney beans, apples, and cereal grasses.

Because of these, experts advise you to provide alfalfa with other nutritious plants to prevent such instances from occurring.

Other disadvantages of supplemental feeding of deer include

  • Spreading diseases among the deer as they assemble, for example, in the alfalfa food plant.
  • Reduction of fat reserves as the deer travel to and from the feeding sites.
  • Over browsing of other vegetation by the deer.

Benefits of growing alfalfa in your backyard

Alfalfa is not only nutritious to deer, but the plant also provides plenty of health benefits to humans.

Some of the advantages of alfalfa microgreens include

  • Contributes to urinary tract detoxification
  • Relieves common digestive issues such as mild ulcer cases
  • Has numerous enzymes that aid the body in food digestion and absorption
  • Lowers the risk of breast cancer
  • Lessens excessive menstruation
  • Reducing blood glucose levels.
  • Acts as an antioxidant

How to protect your alfalfa from deer

Deer may be cute, and all, but the truth is they can cause real damage on your alfalfa plantation. This isn’t ideal, especially if you grow the plant for commercial purposes.

Here are measures you can take to protect your alfalfa plantation from deer.

Motion-activated water sprinklers

They work by sprinkling water whenever the deer get within your set range. The water scares the deer off.

Fencing

This is one of the most effective methods if done correctly. Your fence needs to be at least eight feet tall since deer can easily jump over anything shorter than that.

In addition, the fence should be well maintained and cover the whole plantation fully.

You can use an electric fence. However, you will have first to check that the laws of your area allow for such.

Ultrasonic noisemakers

Ultrasonic noisemakers produce a high-pitched sound that the deer can hear but you can’t. These gadgets use the deer’s powerful sense of hearing against them. 

Windchimes

Deer are always on the constant lookout for any form of threat. Therefore, the sounds of chimes will make them avoid moving into the area, as it will seem unsafe.

For wind chimes to be effective, place them all around the plantation.

Grow deer-resistant crops around the Alfalfa plants

Deer don’t like plants that emit strong scents like the boxwood, so they won’t go near the alfalfa when you plant such crops around the alfalfa.

However, you need to evenly spread the deer-resistant plants throughout the plantation since deer can avoid them and go straight for the alfalfa.

Spray repellents.

Deer repellents also use foul smells to keep away the deer. You can make a deer repellent at home by blending 

  • Two eggs
  • Three tablespoons of milk
  • 20grams of cayenne pepper 
  • 4 cups of water.

Then leave the mixture for about fifteen hours. After which, you can spray the mix on your alfalfa plants.

Though homemade repellents are pocket friendly and easy to make, they may not be as effective as commercial deer repellents.

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