Fawn Care Guidelines

By: A. Jacques Fuselier, DVM, DABVP, DACT
      Paul Whittington, DVM
Originally appeared in the Spring 2017 Issue of Whitetails of Louisiana

Late Spring and Summer is always exciting, as well as nerve-wracking time for our deer industry with fawns being born. And the threat of disease in the back of our minds. With emotions running high and advice from “experts” on social media, it is important to focus on the basics and use sound judgement with regard to rearing fawns. This article is intended to review these basics and hopefully provide tips that will add to the success of your fawn program.

Regardless of whether fawns will be bottle-raised or raised on their dam, it is important to leave them with their dam for the first 24 hours of life. This will allow them to get colostrum (first milk) that they need for appropriate health and disease prevention. It is a good idea to have some deer specific colostrum replacer (i.e. First Fawn Colostrum) on hand for the instances where a doe has too many fawns to nurse, the doe dies, or any other circumstance that prevents the fawn from getting its share of natural colostrum. Twenty-four hours of age is also a great time to put identification tags and microchips, as well as give vitamin and bacterial antitoxin (E. coli, Clostridium, etc.) supplements based on the disease history of the farm.

Bottle -raised fawns definitely require more intensive care. It is best to feed them a high quality, deer specific milk replacer (ex.. Superior. Fox Valley, etc.). Multi-species, generic milk replacers do not provide the same quality nutrients and fawns usually develop slowly and tend to be sicklier. It is recommended to feed fawns at a rate of 10% of their body weight per day, not per feeding. This daily requirement is then divided by the number of feedings per day.

For example:

Let's say a newborn fawn weighs 6 pounds. 10% of 6 pounds is 0.6 (6x 0.1 or 10%). That 0.6 equates to the amount of milk in liters. To convert to milliliters (mls or cc), multiply that answer by 1000, so 0.6 x 1000 = 600 mls or cc. Therefore, that fawn will require 600 mls of milk per day. Now, we know that 1 ounce equals 30 mls, so we can divide 600 by 30 to find out how many ounces are required per day (600 ÷ 30 = 20 ounces). This tells us that this 6 pound fawn requires 20 ounces of milk per day. It is best to feed newborns 4 times a day, so that mean we will feed this fawn 5 ounces (20 ounces per day ÷ 4 times a day) per feeding.

With that said we recommend that you weigh each fawn at least weekly and repeat this calculation to ensure that each fawn is getting its required amount of milk. It's a good idea to feed fawns 4 times a day for the first 7-10 days, then 3 times a day for the next 10 days, then drop down to 2 times a day feedings until weaned. Most fawns are ready to be weaned by 8 weeks old. Each fawn needs to have its own nipple and these should be sterilized each day. We find that fawns do very well with a Pritchard nipple.

We recommend housing bottle-raised fawns individually and separate from mature deer until they are at least 4 weeks old. This will help decrease exposure to organisms that cause scours and respiratory disease. Once fawns are 30 days old, they can be moved into “group housing" consisting of 4-6 fawns per group. If you use wood shavings as bedding, it is important that you get Kiln Dried shavings. These shavings have decreased amounts of environmental coliform bacteria, such as E. coli and Klebsiella.

Vaccinating fawns prior to 30 days of age is usually not effective. We recommend giving their first vaccinations at 30 days old and giving boosters at 60 and 90 days old.

We recommend that you consult your herd veterinarian when trying to develop a fawn care protocol for your farm or before implementing any treatment protocol that you read about on the internet, Drs. Fuselier and Whittington are also available for producer and veterinarian consultations

We hope you have an abundant and healthy fawn crop!!

Whittington Veterinary Clinic
1101 W. Port St. Abbeville, LA 70510