Beets are a popular and healthy food choice for deer! From the leafy greens down to the buried roots, beets of all types are commonly used as deer feed or foraged by wild deer. Here’s everything you need to know about deer and beets!
Best Parts of Beets
While every part of beet is attractive to deer, the easy availability of beet greens means they typically graze on these first. In winter or when food is scarce, deer are more willing to work harder for their food- this means they might start digging for the beetroot. While deer love every part of a beet plant, they will typically eat the easiest parts (the greens) before the root.
Beet pulp is also a commonly used deer feed. Beet pulp is exactly what it sounds like- ground up beetroot. It is often mixed with molasses, corn, or other veggies to make it even more appetizing to deer! In other words, feeding beets to deer is a much better choice than offering deer any kind of meat.
Types Of Beets That Deer Love
There are many types of beets, but the most popular for deer feed is the sugar beet. These veggies are very sweet and easily digestible, making them an attractive option for deer. Despite this, deer will happily eat many varieties of beets. Here are some of the most common varieties and their attractiveness to deer.
|Type of Beet||Deer Preference|
|Sugar Beet||Known to attract deer |
commonly used as animal feed
favorite of hungry deer
|Red Beet||More commonly consumed by humans|
popular with deer
|Golden Beet||Less sugar makes them less favored|
Still commonly eaten by deer
How Deer Find Beets
Deer are expert foragers. They have an incredible sense of smell- five times better than dogs! They use their noses to sniff out food. Beet greens are easily visible and extremely attractive to deer. Come late fall or winter, deer will start digging for food.
With all the vegetation gone, it’s easier to find and consume the beetroot. Beets are also commonly used as bait or deer feed. In this case, deer will remember where the stashes are located and return here when hungry.
Nutritional Value of Beetroot
Beets are a healthy option for hungry deer! They’re high in fiber, easily digestible, and contain around 20% of a deer’s daily protein. They also serve as a great source of essential vitamins and minerals.
|Nutrient||Amount per 100 grams|
How to Feed Beets to Deer
While feeding deer may seem fun and harmless, it’s important to do so responsibly. Check laws surrounding feeding wildlife before leaving beets out for deer. Improper feeding can spread disease or prove fatal to deer. Once you’ve determined that it’s legal in your area, it’s time to get started!
Beetroot can be bought in bulk at many farms and feed stores. Beet greens are also available, though they’re a more expensive and perishable option. Beetroot is the most popular part of the plant for animal feed. Beet pulp is also an option- this is readily available in many rural or agricultural areas. Only provide raw beets for deer.
Cooking beets decreases their nutritional value and is less natural. Cooked beets also spoil very quickly, whereas raw beetroot can be kept for a long time.
Deer are opportunistic foragers, so they’ll happily eat anything they find. Dramatic or quick changes in diet, however, can cause bloat and death in deer. Start by placing just a few beets out. If desired, slowly increase the number of beets you provide.
Pile the beets away from busy areas
While cute, deer are still wild animals and can be unpredictable. For the safety of both you and the deer, keep the beets somewhere away from people. Busy roads, hiking trails, houses, or even other feed piles can spook deer or cause dangerous human-wildlife conflicts.
Give them time
As mentioned before, deer have an incredible sense of smell. As prey animals, they’re very cautious around new or unfamiliar scents. After you first leave the beets out, they’ll smell like you! Give the deer some time to acclimate to the smell and assess that there’s no danger before they come to eat.
Observe from a distance
It’s fun to watch wild deer, but don’t get too close. You might scare them away! They could also become acclimated to humans, which is extremely dangerous and often leads to unfortunate consequences for the deer. Give them plenty of space!
Best Time to Feed Deer Beets
The best time to feed beets to deer is in winter. This is when naturally occurring food is scarce and many deer may be facing starvation. Beets will be a welcome and nutritious treat in the colder months. Deer will also be starting to rut, which greatly increases their appetites.
While you can feed deer any time of year, they’re much less likely to visit food piles in the spring and summer. During warmer months there are plenty of tasty options for them to forage on their own.
Protecting Beets From Deer
While there are many methods to keep deer out of gardens, many fail to derail hungry wildlife. The best way to ensure deer do not eat your beets is to enclose the garden with an eight-foot fence. Deer are known to regularly jump heights of six feet, so paying attention to fence height is important! Bird netting can be draped over your beet crop, but a determined deer can push it down.
Motion-activated sprinklers, coyote urine, or noisemakers may work temporarily, but deer will quickly learn that they are not real threats.
These things may work with beets but there’s no way to prevent deer from feeding plants like kudzu that grow and spread all over the place. Interestingly, many people want deer to come and eat kudzus due to their nature. You can read more about it here.
Beets are an attractive and nutritious option to add to any deer’s diet! As long as it is done responsibly, providing beets for wild deer can increase the health of the herd. From beet greens to beetroots and pulp, every part of this vegetable is a great addition to any deer’s diet.
Read Also: Is It Healthy to Feed Pumpkin to Deer?