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#5713638 - 04/23/15 05:03 PM Timed vs Free-Choice
John Humbert Offline
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Registered: 12/13/10
Posts: 1631
The protein percentage thread got me thinking again (uh-oh, that can be dangerous). I started thinking about the whole timed vs free-choice thing. For me, for years and years I just accepted the conventional "wisdom" of feeding corn on timed feeders and protein free-choice.

But in the last two years, I have been begun to question that - and ask myself and others some hard questions. You see, I don't know of any rancher who feeds his livestock all they want, all the time. Aside from grazing (which is usually so low nutritional grasses that eating all day is required), ranchers feed their animals and watch consumption and cost.

So why is it that we setup this free-choice protein feeders where the deer gorge themselves? I mean, really - most folks who are free-choicing protein tell me the same thing - their deer empty those feeders as fast as they can. There's lots of spillage, and lots of free-loaders like pigs - and feed bills get expensive and refills (unless they have huge feeders) are common. And when they are hitting them, stories of 300-500lb feeders getting emptied in a week or less are common.

Heck, last time I tried free choice, they emptied that thing in 3-4 days!

The past 2.5 years I've been using a LAMCO timed trough feeder, and it has been so much better for me. I drop 6-8 lbs twice a day, and my feeder fills last about 3 months. I have 10-15 deer regularly hit the feeder, and leave very little leftovers. (although I have seen up to 20 deer at one time, but mostly the same 10-15 deer on cam).

Seeing the behavior of the deer on game cam pics and video, it is very interesting to watch. By and large, there is a polite pecking order as they pony up to the feeder. Bucks, then does/young deer - occasionally the reverse. I run a mix of roasted soybean and protein pellets (plus a secret treat) and I rarely see any "feeder buttons". They eat their share, and then back off and let others. My mix is probably around 25% protein (maybe a little more), so eating less volume they are getting more protein per mouth.

This is different than when I ran free-choice, where deer would eat a LOT more individually before moving off and let others in.

With the trough, I see more deer feeding at the same time because more deer can get to the feed, as compared to a 4-port free choice.

And I rarely get hogs on the protein anymore, since the deer leave little leftovers. In fact, the only time I see hogs is just the day or two after I fill, when there is feed left in the trough after testing the feeder. Those deer get very smart on when that feeder goes off, and are usually on it within 3-4 minutes after the drop. Whereas my corn feeder they come and go at all times - and aside from a couple does who are feeder-hoes, it may be 30 minutes before I catch them on cam at the feeder - even though the corn feeder is only 200-300 yards away from the protein.

I have witnessed several times deer at the corn stop and immediately head to the protein feeder when they hear it, then only return to the corn after they've had their fill of protein.

I just see why folks choose free-choice over timed for protein anymore. Even a regular spin corn feeder can easily be converted to a "trough-type" timed protein feeder.

I see folks talk about "wasting" money on higher-percentage protein, but then have them lose 10-15% of their "free choice" to spillage, spoilage, or hogs.

I just don't get it.

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#5713677 - 04/23/15 05:31 PM Re: Timed vs Free-Choice [Re: John Humbert]
aeb Online   happy
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If your deer are pigging out on protein and you spend all your spare time filling feeders, you probably have way too many deer for the natural forage available.
You are "feeding" deer rather than "supplementing" deer.
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#5713704 - 04/23/15 05:50 PM Re: Timed vs Free-Choice [Re: John Humbert]
stxranchman Offline
Obie Juan Kenobi

Registered: 08/04/10
Posts: 52092
With a timered feeder you are only feeding small sector of the herd. It could be all does or a mix of bucks and does. My guess it won't be any mature bucks. If you are feeding timered from 10pm till 2 am then you might be more successful. I always viewed timered feeders this way...the amount of deer eating your # ration daily are not competing for that same amount of native forage for the rest of the herd. The key is you have to have enough native forage to support the rest of the herd if you trying to supplement the herd with a timered feeder. Also mixing feeds is not a guarantee that the aggressive dominant deer are not picking out the "ice cream choices" first leaving the "white bread pieces" for the less aggressive deer. What you are going to be lacking are the minerals, trace minerals and vitamins. A hardened antler is 44% protein, 22% calcium and 11% phosphorus + other minerals and trace minerals. If it is not in the plants or soil in your area then they need from another source- you. If you are trying to feed deer with a timer then you need to be adjust your amount of feed daily based on range conditions, which can be very difficult to gauge. IME when deer were hammering feed, I was 2 weeks behind their needs. I tried the timered trough style feeders on a 5000 acre South Texas ranch with minimal success for 3 yrs. It saved money(not sure if loss of antler quality was a success in the savings) but deer quality was off by a lot from the previous 5 yrs of free choice. I fed 24% protein out of those feeders and fed starting 30 minutes before dark till 30 minutes before daylight. Fed 4-6 times per night total. Most of the feed was put out around 9 and 11 pm. Still the deer did not look like they did the previous 5 yrs. Same herd, same deer. What suffered the most IMO was the fawns, they are the deer you want eating and your future in herd management. Does suffered due to not wanting to put much distance from a hidden fawn. Mature bucks that did not hustle in when the feeders went off could have been missing consumption also. Hard to gauge what they needed based off of range condition throughout the year. I kept the feeders with protein 365 days per year. I did mix in corn(25%) from Sept through end of Jan. All feeders were in feed pens and I killed every hog I could find or trap. Trapped coons and possums to keep them out of equation in large numbers.

With free choice the feed should be a supplement as it was designed. To many people start out putting in feeders to feed deer with no management plan in place. To many deer to start with and then way to many deer after they start. Ammo is your best feed to feed when starting a feeding program. Feed it till you are at or below carrying capacity. Feed is not a substitute for poor management or habitat. It is mostly definitely a substitute for age or genetics, neither of which will be on any feed label.

Free choice is the only way to go for me IME. I want does eating feed then raising a fawn on feed. That fawn is what I want going into the future for the herd management. I want them on a feed with a great mineral, trace mineral and vitamin package in it. Do not want a feedlot with tails sticking out of the fence either. With free choice feed you are going to be feeding many more animals and critters than just deer. Many of them will benefit from the feed also, not just deer. Varmints need management also. I never put up a feeder without a pen if there are hogs or javis on a property or will use the property. Feed consumption varies from area of the state as much as from season to season in the year. Throw in rainfall patterns or lack of it and you can see where herd management plays a huge part in the feed bill. Habitat type and region of the state plays a huge roll in feed consumption. When I was in the Hill Country the deer would really start to hammer feed around May 10th-15th up till Sept due to lack of forb and quality browse after spring green up. Late summer and fall meant mast crops to carry deer into winter. That was the most crucial time for deer that are already in good body shape since they are growing antlers and raising fawns. In South Texas consumption would depend on spring rains. Lot of good spring rains and consumption was down due to forbs. With good mesquite bean and tuna crops consumption would still be way off in the summer. Those spring to summer rains meant fresh high quality browse growth. October is a key month for bucks putting on the fat for the rut. Fawns are now eating as much forage/feed as an adult doe can eat. They are growing skeletal structure and bodies for the future. Does need to be getting back into shape to breed again. Post rut for bucks is the most critical time to feed and if they need or want free choice they need to get it. The cycle goes the same every year except mother nature does not follow her same cycle every year. That is where a supplemental feed and/or food plot program come into play if you are wanting quality animals every year.

A lot of people who feed free choice are also selling hunts to cover the costs of feeding. Some are only feeding protein free choice from after deer season up till late summer. The cost of feed today has had many ranches going to feeding this way. Those ranches are still feeding and killing great deer. With any of those feeding free choice they are making sure that they get some income off of every deer that is taken off the place that they can. There will also be the ranches who feed free choice that do not sell hunts and only use it for family/friends/business.

Supplemental feed should be just that a supplement when a deer needs. That is how livestock ranches approach supplementing(with feed, hay or small grains/grazer) their stock in bad times or winters. They supplement when they need to. Many will keep minerals out year round also. It seems most people are just as passionate about the wildlife on their land as the livestock.
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#5713760 - 04/23/15 06:33 PM Re: Timed vs Free-Choice [Re: John Humbert]
John Humbert Offline
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Registered: 12/13/10
Posts: 1631
Great info STXRANCHMAN, you've given me some info to consider and pointed out a few things that I did not take into account.

Love these threads.

BTW, I consider minerals separately and put out blocks.

Frankly, on my lease - 5800 acres with 10-11 guys - I am the only one feeding protein that I know of. I have no illusions that my efforts probably make little, if any, difference overall. Starting with protein, not with management in mind, but more of an attractant. Of which, I have no doubt has been a raging success. My spot is centrally located on the lease, and it is rare that someone has a deer on cam that is not a regular visitor to my area (protein feeder).

I'm just having "fun" with the feed/feeding - playing at it - trying to learn things for when my own ranch comes into play (hopefully later this year).

Still, whether it be wishful thinking or simply coincidence, I have noticed subtle differences in the past 2.5 years of protein. First, I have lots more deer visiting my section (about 300 acres). Definitely pulling deer from other sections and from the ranch to the west. As I said in another post, I have a few deer that everyday, hop the fence from the west, go straight to the protein, eat, and then head straight back across the fence.

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#5713776 - 04/23/15 06:43 PM Re: Timed vs Free-Choice [Re: John Humbert]
stxranchman Offline
Obie Juan Kenobi

Registered: 08/04/10
Posts: 52092
But how many more deer would you see in that area if you fed free choice grin
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#5713843 - 04/23/15 07:23 PM Re: Timed vs Free-Choice [Re: John Humbert]
John Humbert Offline
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Registered: 12/13/10
Posts: 1631
Well, I tried for a few months. Problem was that, according to the cams, they would absolutely empty the feeder in 3-4 days, and then it would sit empty for a couple of weeks until I could get back. Don't recall see much more than the usual crowd, but it never lasted long enough to draw others. And it became a hot spot for pigs.

I am on top of rocky hill, with 4 draws leading into it. Too rocky to setup a feed pen, unless I can get some panels up there and secure them to trees.

Mine is arguably the most remote area on the lease - have to drive about 9-10 miles of road, the last 2 is really bad going up the hill. It's a miracle on how I got that LAMCO up there.

Hauling literally a ton of feed out there becomes an epic adventure - especially all by myself. So I try to minimize trips, and take a little each visit until I can get help or take the big truck.


Edited by John Humbert (04/23/15 07:25 PM)

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#5713959 - 04/23/15 08:17 PM Re: Timed vs Free-Choice [Re: John Humbert]
SniperRAB Online   content
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Registered: 03/26/12
Posts: 21182
Loc: Nurturing Biosphere Mothership
Just curious

IMO
It should be a joint effort on the Feed program also..do you have a lot of natural foliage in your area

I feed free choice Feb-Sept then switch over to timed so I can control the feeding activity by bringing them in on my terms
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#5713973 - 04/23/15 08:23 PM Re: Timed vs Free-Choice [Re: SniperRAB]
stxranchman Offline
Obie Juan Kenobi

Registered: 08/04/10
Posts: 52092
Originally Posted By: SniperRAB
Just curious

IMO
It should be a joint effort on the Feed program also..do you have a lot of natural foliage in your area

I feed free choice Feb-Sept then switch over to timed so I can control the feeding activity by bringing them in on my terms

bs You switch to timered protein feeders cause you hate coons and turkey eating all your feed grin Remember your saying Sniper? "Ye who chums the most wins" stir

Question? Since you have switched to timer and your terms, has the mature buck activity went down. What has the quality done or can you tell? Are you the only one feeding or feeding with timered protein?
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#5714015 - 04/23/15 08:50 PM Re: Timed vs Free-Choice [Re: John Humbert]
John Humbert Offline
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Registered: 12/13/10
Posts: 1631
Well, it's really hard to say or draw conclusions. Last year, we had more quality deer than we expected and everyone was very healthy, good body weights, good fawn crop into the fall.

But we also had the wettest year in three years, and the mesquite and acorn crop was incredible!

We were expecting poor results because it was the year the "drought year" deer were coming of age, and 10 good deer were taken the year before (and one ex-lease member wounded a couple of good deer frown )

We didn't see many 4yo the year before that would be "shooters" (for our lease) for this year. To our surprise, we had some very good 8's and way more 10's than we expected. In fact, I had a choice of three 10's on my hitlist.

Another surprise was that most everyone was seeing very few deer during season. Slow actually. I hunted opening day somewhere else because I didn't expect much. When I came out the 2nd weekend of gun season everyone was still reporting slow activity. But when I checked my cams after a very slow morning, I had deer out the wazoo - but they were coming between 12:30-3pm in the afternoon. I went immediately back out and shot a 10 about 2:45p

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#5714030 - 04/23/15 09:01 PM Re: Timed vs Free-Choice [Re: John Humbert]
stxranchman Offline
Obie Juan Kenobi

Registered: 08/04/10
Posts: 52092
Actually John, my question about quality and activity was directed at Sniper. He was feeding free choice for a longer time than you were. You were the only one feeding so it would be very difficult to gauge any difference.

I your case I would think if you could get the LO on board with just doe control it will make a huge difference. Forget about culling bucks till you get them on board with doe. Even might consider throwing in few spikes each year so there will be a fail safe for what falls into a cull buck example. Over time it will pull the buck population. Killing as few as deer per season as you have been is not even covering the recruitment rate. Predation and drought are helping more than hurting. Good rains can really fuel a population explosion with an older mature doe herd.
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#5714033 - 04/23/15 09:04 PM Re: Timed vs Free-Choice [Re: stxranchman]
SniperRAB Online   content
GRAMPS!!!

Registered: 03/26/12
Posts: 21182
Loc: Nurturing Biosphere Mothership
Originally Posted By: stxranchman
Originally Posted By: SniperRAB
Just curious

IMO
It should be a joint effort on the Feed program also..do you have a lot of natural foliage in your area

I feed free choice Feb-Sept then switch over to timed so I can control the feeding activity by bringing them in on my terms

bs You switch to timered protein feeders cause you hate coons and turkey eating all your feed grin Remember your saying Sniper? "Ye who chums the most wins" stir

Question? Since you have switched to timer and your terms, has the mature buck activity went down. What has the quality done or can you tell? Are you the only one feeding or feeding with timered protein?


We all are required to feed a " Minimum of 350lbs free choice ever 6-8 weeks during those dates...a handful of us feed year round on the Protein, this will be the second year that I have done the timed...
Had to Amigo, I could put out 36 bags of protein and they would plow through it fairly quick. I honestly can't tell, had a few 150ish,s pulled out this year but you know me...I'm picky

Now come season I will turn it into a all you can eat Buffet

Only two of us have timed feeders that supplement our free choice ones..
This will be the 3 rd year since we killed that Cat and that's helped activity a ton
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#5714038 - 04/23/15 09:06 PM Re: Timed vs Free-Choice [Re: John Humbert]
stxranchman Offline
Obie Juan Kenobi

Registered: 08/04/10
Posts: 52092
What is your ratio? Density if you know?
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#5714052 - 04/23/15 09:16 PM Re: Timed vs Free-Choice [Re: John Humbert]
SniperRAB Online   content
GRAMPS!!!

Registered: 03/26/12
Posts: 21182
Loc: Nurturing Biosphere Mothership
Man I would have to go pull that paper out that ole Book Learning A&M Biologist gave us after the study bud
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#5714054 - 04/23/15 09:16 PM Re: Timed vs Free-Choice [Re: John Humbert]
SniperRAB Online   content
GRAMPS!!!

Registered: 03/26/12
Posts: 21182
Loc: Nurturing Biosphere Mothership
Two many does can tell you that
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#5714073 - 04/23/15 09:25 PM Re: Timed vs Free-Choice [Re: John Humbert]
stxranchman Offline
Obie Juan Kenobi

Registered: 08/04/10
Posts: 52092
Put them on your "hate list" then after turkey, coons, goats....
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