Landete-Castillejos, T., García, A., Gómez, J.A. & Gallego, L. 2003: Lactation under food constraints in Iberian red deer Cervus elaphus hispanicus. - Wildl. Biol. 9: 131-139.
The plane of nutrition in deer may affect body condition and lactation in hinds and calf growth both through long-term density-dependent effects and by shortterm abiotically originated falls in food supply. Our study examines the effect of low nutrient availability after calving on lactation in captive Iberian red deer Cervus elaphus hispanicus. Twelve hinds and their calves were allotted to a food restricted (50-60% daily energy requirements) or a control group just after calving. Hinds in the food-restricted group showed a greater body mass loss, produced less milk and yield of milk fat, protein and lactose, and a different lactation curve shape, which resulted in reduced calf growth. However, the time course of lactation variables appeared to show a compensatory response up to week 4: a greater milk fat content in low-nutrition hinds than in the control group appeared to compensate for lower milk production, as neither calf nor hind mass differed from the control group, and lactation variables in both groups showed a standard lactation pattern. In contrast, as milk fat content fell below that of the control group after week 4, the low nutrition plane overcame a standard lactation pattern and groups differed in most variables (e.g. calf and hind mass and percentage of calf growth). Our results appear to show that deer mobilise body reserves in lactation to maintain offspring growth under temporary reductions in food intake, which may be a strategy of securing investment in current offspring at the expense of reproducing the following season.
Key words: ecological constraints, food resources, Iberian red deer, lactation, milk composition, milk production, parental investment
Tomás Landete-Castillejos* & Andrés García*, Departamento de Ciencia y Tecnología Agroforestal, ETSIA, Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha, E-02071 Albacete, Spain, and Instituto de Investigación en Recursos Cinegéticos (CSIC-UCLM-JCCLM), Sección Albacete, Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha, E-02071 Albacete, Spain - e-mail addresses: firstname.lastname@example.org (Tomás Landete-Castillejos); email@example.com (Andrés García)
Jose Ángel Gómez & Laureano Gallego, Departamento de Ciencia y Tecnología Agroforestal, ETSIA, Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha, E-02071 Albacete, Spain - e-mail addresses: firstname.lastname@example.org (Jose Angél Gómez); email@example.com (Laureano Gallego)
*Present address: IREC (Sección Albacete) Sección de Recursos Cinegéticos, IDR, Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha, E-02071 Albacete, Spain
Corresponding author: Tomás Landete-Castillejos
Received 5 November 2001, accepted 6 March 2002
Associate Editor: Joel Berger