Deer can eat spinach because it does offer some high-quality nutrients that deer needs for proper growth, but it is very unlikely for deer to eat them. After all, Spinach leaves contain oxalic acids that show deer-resistive characteristics.
And it can also cause some digestive problems like reducing the ability to absorb minerals like calcium from spinach leaves.
Keep reading the article, because spinach is not favorable food for deer but still it has some qualities that can benefit the deer.
Can Deer Smell Spinach?
Yes, deer are good at sensing the smell of spinach. Let’s say, a deer that does not know how the spinach leaves smell, deer smells it; it will not forget that smell for a very long time, probably till he dies.
I will not go into the biology of deer, but deer’s sense of smell is about 1000 times better than that of the average human being; so if you can smell that weird scent of spinach (sweet yet acidic smell; thanks to oxalic acid) than it’s much easier for deer.
Though in my experience, cooked spinach smells more robust & metallic than raw spinach, boiled or multiple-wash spinach due to reduction in oxalic acid and turn makes it less deer resistant and provides a more favorable chance of them eating it.
Is Spinach Healthy For Deer? (Nutritional Chart)
See, if I go through all the nutrients available in the spinach, the list will be long and you’ll be bored, probably. For your sake & of the deer, the below table consists only of the things that are needed in his meal to survive properly.
Nutrients per 100 gram(g) of spinach.
|Vitamin C||28.1 mg|
|Vitamin A, RAE||469 mcg|
|Vitamin E||2.03 mg|
From the above chart, it is 100% clear that spinach is abundant in water (91%), followed by – 4% carbohydrates, 3% protein, and a minute amount of fat. If you want a much higher protein content food then giving deer 12-18 almonds will act as a supplement.
Do Spinach Provide Enough Nutrients? (Breakdown for deer!)
The energy needed by deer calculates based on their BMR. BMR stands for Basal Metabolic Rate, in the case of deer, it can vary on sex, age, season, and or species. According to the Pennsylvania State University, White-tailed deer need 81-90 kcal/day in winter, nonreproductive females need 123 kcal/day in winter, and 262 kcal/day during summer.
On the scale, spinach provides 23 kcal of energy/100g. So if we go by the numbers then a couple of the same-size servings of spinach can fulfill their energy need. Nevertheless, it is not recommended to feed deer by yourself and if you do, at least give them various choices.
Hopefully, deer may or may not eat much spinach just for energy as there are many forages available to fulfill a good chunk of this. but still, spinach provides 8.7 to 23% of deer’s daily average energy need.
Studies have shown that deer-free water consumption is inversely proportional to the water available in food. Although, there are no public experiments held to clear the fact. If we look at deer feeding patterns, then they mostly feed on browses and forbs. Browse contains about 45 to 65 percent of water and 70 to 90 percent of water is in forbs.
With all proof, raw spinach contains 91% water, e.g. from 100g of spinach deer will automatically get 91.4 grams of water; to be precise. This is the case with fresh spinach (containing leaves and its stem).
Vitamin A, D, & E are the only vitamins that I’ve seen studies talk vigorously. They say deer require different vitamins but for their overall quality growth and development, Vitamin A, D & E are crucial.
Our food chart indicates that Vitamin C takes the majority – 28.1 mg to be exact, though deer do not need much of it, deficiency of “C” in deer still may cause scurvy in them. So spinach got it covered, at least there. But that reason is good enough to not feed deer ‘only spinaches’, as it does not provide the optimal amount of Vitamin A and Vitamin D.
I am going to spill the beans! A lot of people are pinpointed a lot with vitamins that they don’t pay needed attention to minerals, at least don’t do this with deer. Deer need several minerals for proper survival; phosphorus and calcium are high on the scale as it is crucial for deer antler development. weight gain, bone growth.
Former Extension Assistant, Calvin L. Richardson, says diets containing 0.28 to 0.30 percent phosphorus and 0.40 percent calcium are required for proper development and growth in deer.
He further exclaimed, that only a few species of deer forages contain this amount of mineral; except those blossom in springs. Spinach contains 99mg of calcium and 49mg of phosphorus.
On the surface, spinach seems like a golden treat for Deer in terms of minerals but according to Cleveland Clinic, 100g of spinach contains about 645mg of oxalate.
Even for deer, calcium, when it eats a lot of spinach then the oxalic acid binds with calcium in the intestines, which limits the calcium absorption by the body. So, spinaches are not that great for deer to fulfill minerals needs.
That’s why it is a good idea to create other forages like cabbages that are rich in calcium and some phosphorus to fulfill the overall nutrition needs of deer. Also oxalic acid is resistant to deer which is the reason why deer don’t like spinaches that much. Unless you reduce the oxalic acid from spinach.
Do All Deer Species Eat Spinach?
We don’t know the exact answer, but Spinach grows mainly in California, Arizona, and New Jersey (talking about the United States). And deer species that reside in this area are Mule Deer (Califonia), White-tailed and Mule deer (Arizona), and white-tailed deer in New Jersey.
So if deer do fond of spinaches, then those three states and said deer species will most likely witness around the spinach field need deer zone to fulfill the nutrient needs.
Should You Feed Spinach To Deer By Hand? (Perfect Way!)
Spinach is not an ideal food to feed the deer just because of the high amount of oxalic acid present in it which is deer resistant. But during rough times, when not many forage choices are available deer may have to eat spinach leaves, even though, it is not possible for deer to completely forbid food that contains oxalic acid because some of those foods are high in nutrients; spinach is one of them.
If that happens, you should not feed Spinach to deer by hand, if you care about them, then give them other food choices like bananas, apples, carrots, and soft nuts like peanuts (dare not walnuts). Alongside, you can put some spinach leaves (a bit far) because as they are high in water deer may choose them.
Also, if you can find a way to reduce the oxalate content in spinach leaves then that would increase the chances of deer feeding on them.
How To Protect Your Spinach Farm From Deer?
I think you don’t need to protect your spinach farm from deer because it already has some deer resisting qualities. But if you found that deer are munching on spinaches then please let them; their body may need some of the nutrients and high water present that may not be easily available to them in their region.
If you find it tolerating, then you can install high fences, and they should be tall enough as deer can jump up to 8-10 feet.