Fruit & Vegetable Magazine

Features Production Research
Back off, Rudolph – Deterring deer


November 22, 2010
By North Carolina State University Extension

Topics

deerNovember 19, 2010 – Hair
clippings, cayenne pepper and raw eggs – these are just a few of the odd
ingredients recommended to keep pesky deer away from backyard gardens. But what
about farmers who can have hundreds of acres of crops to protect?

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clippings, cayenne pepper and raw eggs – these are just a few of the odd
ingredients recommended to keep pesky deer away from backyard gardens. But what
about farmers who can have hundreds of acres of crops to protect?

North Carolina State
University Extension
specialists have now found an effective, inexpensive
alternative to available commercial products to keep the deer at bay. The
research was initially launched to help protect Christmas tree plantings.

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deer 
  

The NC State researchers,
led by Jeff Owen, a Christmas-tree production specialist, are exploring the use
of inexpensive, inedible food byproducts – such as dried blood and egg powder –
typically sold in bulk to the pet-food industry to be used for flavoring. These
byproducts cost 85 to 90 per cent less than their commercial counterparts, and
are found to be just as effective. Using these repellents – which can be
purchased locally in bulk – may provide help to farmers.

“These products have an
unappealing taste, but the decaying smell actually elicits a fear response in
the deer and keeps them away from the crops,” Owen says. “We’re continuing to
look at similar products – like liver powder and fishmeal – to see if they work
the same way.”

“We initially looked into
the effectiveness and feasibility of using different fencing and commercial
repellents to protect trees and crops from deer. Both are successful, but are
extremely expensive,” Owen explains. “When you take the commercial deer repellent
that you find at your local hardware store and use it on a farm-wide basis, you
see growers budgeting as much for deer repellents as most of their other
pesticides.”

According to Owen,
commercial deer repellents cost at least $18 per pound, while the dried blood
or egg powder, which can be bought in bulk from agriculture suppliers, runs
less than $2 per pound.

“With the economy in the
state it is, the growers can’t pass expenses associated with deer damage onto
the consumer, because the wholesale market would not support it,” Owen says.
“So, the deer have been, literally, eating into their profit. We hope that
finding an inexpensive deer repellent alternative will not only help save their
crop, but also help them to stay profitable.”

But before running off to
place orders for rancid egg powder, Owen offers some words of wisdom.

“Our growers get these
products in 50-pound bags or even 2,000-pound pallets, and have to mix the egg
powder or dried blood into a solution to be sprayed. It’s not the prettiest
process,” laughs Owen.


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