The Rut is upon us
For our handsome lead buck deer this means a surge in testosterone to the point where all he will focus on for the next three weeks are his lovely lady does. Serving and protecting them becomes an instinct above all other, including eating! Right now he is at his strongest and most handsome after a long lazy summer in our lush fields. But in a few weeks time he will look exhausted, thin and like any of us after too much partying and not enough sleep!
Already he is holding his head high and gathering the deer around him, when we enter the field he is more on guard than ever before and his penis has turned dark at the end. All this puts us on alert.
Early in the year when he arrived at our farm he was barely beyond a pricket. This is the name for a buck in his second year of life with just the beginnings of antlers appearing. However we hoped he would mature over the summer and be just the right age for his first rut by the autumn so we are delighted to see all the signs are there.
Arriving last winter after the 2012 Rut
Implications for our Guests
Generally on the morning feed run we encourage a tour of the deer field to flush out the deer hiding in the trees and bracken and are more than happy for responsible visits into the field at any other time of day. There is after all a public footpath across the field. However just for the next three weeks we need to ensure our guests and the general public are extra careful. It is still fine to enter the field but for our guests we now say only on the morning feed run and with Farmer Nick who can keep everyone together to ensure the deer do not feel threatened or surrounded in any way.
Deer are by nature shy and will run away, but if the stag feels scared in to attack he is a heavy beast and can do some serious damage with his antlers. This message is particularly important as the rutting season coincides with the half term school holidays where we have many older school age children on the farm who are allowed to explore and play around Coombe Mill without their parents. The morning tractor ride pep talk will have important reminders to all about the deer at this time. As a further reminder the children helped me make signs at either end of the field where the foot path crosses to alert any walkers to take extra care at this time.
The stag will feed up again over the winter months helped by a cornflake mix from us each morning with our visiting guests and plenty of hay in their feeders. This is necessary as the lush summer vegetation dies back and the cold of winter stilts the natural growth such that there is just not enough to sustain the herd.
As spring returns so will the green shoots and bracken and hopefully we will be rewarded with fawns. The mothers have very few defence methods for their young. They rarely look pregnant or in labour, give birth in a camouflage hiding place and leave their young there alone, returning twice a day only to feed them. The young instinctively know to lie very still and not move even if someone or something comes very close relying on their camouflage to keep them safe. Only when they feel the game is really up will they run. This is how I manage the beautiful close up shots.
Their other defence, which is very clever to us humans, is the ability to delay their birth. If the conditions are not correct they will carry the babies inside for longer. This year the spring growth was weeks behind after the long dry but cold burst from February to May and we were worried we were not going to have any fawns from our old stag, however as soon as the weather warmed and the bracken shot up so out popped 3 lovely fawns all within a week of one another.
Building Our Farm Calendar
Last week I wrote about planning ahead for the sheep and the goats and this week the deer. Our farm calendar is building nicely so of you are considering a family holiday with us in 2014 there should be plenty of scope to choose a time with lots happening here on the farm to delight all the family.
I'm linking our farm news to these fabulous linkys. Click on them for more posts from other bloggers:
Magic Moments, What's the Story, Educational and Entertaining, Fun photo Fun