Wapiti Sire management factors to consider at mating
• Time of Joining. To achieve early fawns your sire should be introduced early in March. A wapiti bull mated to a red hind produces on average a gestation length of 245dys (compared to 233dys for a red x red mating). Hence a 1st April mating will give you a 1st Dec fawn. Given the opportunity mating will occur before 1st April (85% on most farms) and generally we recommend joining your Wapiti sire in early March. Factors affecting cycling of your hinds are not covered here but do remember that hybrid hinds cycle earlier than red hinds
• Mating System- you have two choices, you use either Single Sire (SS) mating or Multi Sire (MS) mating. Both systems provide good results with Wapiti sires so the choice is an individual one based on your circumstances eg. extensive v’s intensive property, paddock numbers available and/or farm layout, desire to trace progeny of an individual sire, etc etc
• Mating mob size. For SS mating with a mature bull 50 hinds would be normal. It is quite possible Wapiti sires could successfully mate a greater number of hinds but this would need to be carefully assessed on an individual basis. Even where MS mating is used it is still recommended to maintain this ratio of 1 Wapiti per 50 hinds. So if you have a mating mob of 300 hinds there should be 6 bulls out with them. Total mob size depends on farm type and paddock layout and size.
• Age of Sire. Wapiti are later maturing and a new bull should be 3yrs or older. A 3yr old bull moving to a new environment should have no more than 40 hinds and be SS mated. The only time 3yr old bulls could be considered for use in a MS mating system is where all cohorts in the group were also 3yr old Wapiti bulls.
• Paddock Selection. Mating mobs (both SS and MS) should not be in adjacent paddocks. Similarly stags not being used for mating should not be adjacent to a mating mob. (A small but mature red stag can intimidate a Wapiti bull to the point he will “turn off”). Where MS mating is used paddocks should be larger (at least 10 acres) and rectangular or square in shape. There should be free access to a number of adjoining paddocks ideally via more than one gateway.
• Observing Behaviour. It is essential that you observe your sire during mating to see that he is exhibiting normal mating behaviour. He should be actively rutting: - herding hinds, sniffing hind perineum, showing phlegmen response (head in the air with upper lip curl), spurting urine resulting in dark staining in front of sheath and normally showing aggressive behaviour towards human intrusion into his paddock. Absence of these signs and separation from the hind mob is cause for concern. If you cannot alter his environment to ensure normal rutting resumes you are best to replace him. Some sires become foot sore or lame due to active rutting and may need removed. Some bulls rutting behaviour means weight loss occurs so their BCS is below 2.5 and should be removed. It is not uncommon that a bull will not rut for the entire mating.
• End of Mating / Use of Back Up. A Wapiti sire mating a red hind on 1st May will mean a fawn born on 1st Jan. To avoid late fawns remove your Wapiti sire in late April. Using a Back Up is essential where SS mating is used and ideally that back up should have access to hinds for a full cycle. Hence the date of joining a Back Up is determined by your intended end of mating date and should be 16-18 days before that date. In a MS mating situation, assuming normal rutting behaviour has been observed, a Back Up is not important. Due to the fact 80 to 90% of hinds normally conceive in the first two cycles many farmers using a SS system will then combine several mobs with one Back Up sire and that is fine.
Wapiti Sire management factors to consider during the year
• Introduction to a new farm. Most sires are purchased in January and should be transported to your farm as soon as possible. This is not only for ease of handling with the “roar” approaching, but the more time to settle into a new property the better. Bulls are normally at their highest weight for the year at this time and transport, especially long haul can cause lameness problems. Appropriate provision of bedding and periods of off-loading to graze will alleviate this. Only experienced deer transport operators should be used. Aim to minimise peer-pressure from time of arrival on farm until joined with mating mob. Do not put your new sire with other sire stags/bulls or mature velvetters. Ideally run him with a small group of spikers.
• Feeding - this is critical. Your sire bull should be in optimal body condition and at peak annual bodyweight prior to the “roar”. It is normal for bulls to loose condition during the roar. Some bulls “rut” harder than others and in some instances a judgment call may be necessary resulting in a bull not being used for the entire mating. Avoid your bull getting below a Body Condition Score of 2.5 - there is a small and critical window of opportunity from the end of mating(late April / early May) until the start of winter (early June).Your bull’s appetite will return/improve at this time and this 4 to 5 week period is your opportunity to assist him regain condition. Once winter has arrived it is all but impossible to put condition back on. (The leaner any animal is during winter the more feed/energy required just to maintain body temperature.) - The quality of feed in this period is very important. You need high energy/high protein feed. Pasture alone is seldom adequate and supplements will vary from farm to farm but may include concentrates (deer nuts or grain) and/or high quality silage/lucerne. Once again minimize any social stress. - having achieved a pre-winter improvement in condition, then maintenance is all you aim for during winter. - the other critical period on most deer farms is coming out of winter. From 2 weeks before “button-drop” bulls should be on similar quality feed as pre-winter. The time of good spring pasture growth varies from region to region but in the South we are normally talking late September and so need a month plus of supplement.The benefit of focusing on this period will be paid back handsomely in velvet (both weight and beam).
• Parasite Control. Adult animals normally develop immunity to the effects of parasites. This immunity is broken down in times of stress. Often the roar is when your sire bull is stressed and most vulnerable. Due to the known association between internal parasites (principally Ostertagia) and ill thrift in Wapiti/Elk treatment at strategic times is essential. Preventative treatment pre-rut (Feb/March) and post rut (late April/early May) is recommended. We strongly recommend Cydectin Injection & double dose of Scanda oral or Oxfen C Plus as your best option based on knowledge to date. This combination we know is effective and is best practice to delay the onset of resistance
• Copper. All farms vary as to requirement of Copper. Be mindful that a Copper deficiency will affect your bull and treat/supplement as is indicated by your farm history and as ongoing monitoring suggests.
• Rye-grass. Wapiti/Elk are susceptible to rye-grass staggers so avoid grazing high endophyte pastures at risk times and use low/nil endophyte rye-grasses in pasture renewal programmes.