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Do Deer Eat Alfalfa?

If you are keen to start feeding the deer in your garden or you want to stop them from eating the plants you grow, you may be wondering, do deer eat alfalfa?

This plant is often purchased as a hay that is fed to pets such as rabbits and to grazing animals such as cows and horses. It is very high in fiber, making it an excellent source of food for some animals – but what about deer?

Alfalfa is reasonably popular with deer, although there are plenty of reasons that they will generally not eat it in large quantities.

You might see deer grazing on the alfalfa in your garden, but often, they will want to mix it with other plants, as it doesn’t contain all the nutrients that they need.

As long as a deer is healthy, it should have no problem eating alfalfa plants or alfalfa hay, but be cautious about over-feeding them on this plant.

Growing a wide variety of plants in your garden is a good way to ensure that deer have enough to eat, and as many struggles in winter due to reduced wild spaces and loss of food sources, this is a great thing to do if you are a nature-lover.

However, be aware that deer are pretty destructive feeders, and will damage the plants you grow.

Do Deer Eat Alfalfa?

Deer do eat alfalfa, and if you have it growing in your garden, you should be aware that it is quite likely deer will graze on it whenever they pass through, because it offers them lots of good nutrition and is a favorite source of food.

Knowing this in advance helps you decide whether you should try to protect it, or whether you are happy to let the deer browse on it. If you don’t want them to eat it, you will need to put a fence up to keep it safe.

Deer will eat most kinds of vegetation (provided they are non-toxic) and it is not unusual to find them munching at all sorts of plants in your garden – alfalfa included.

In general, they will only eat fairly small quantities of each plant, rather than large amounts, but they can still do a lot of damage, especially if they graze in a group. You will need to protect your plants with care if you don’t want them to be decimated by deer.

If you aren’t growing alfalfa and you just wish to put hay out for the deer, you can do this safely and they will probably eat it.

However, it is important to note that alfalfa does not provide everything that a deer needs, so you should mix it with other foods, and make sure that roughage is available too. Do not try to exclusively feed deer on alfalfa, as they may get bloated and sick.

Nutritional Benefits Of Alfalfa For Deer!

Alfalfa is a popular hay because it is so packed with digestible fiber, and this makes it a suitable feed for many different animals, especially ones that are elderly or unwell.

However, deer generally prefer fresh alfalfa, especially the growing plant, because it is tender and contains more nutrients and vitamins. It’s important not to overfeed deer on alfalfa, as they are browsers, not grazers, and may get sick if they eat too much.

Alfalfa is healthy for deer because it contains a lot of vitamin C, which can help to boost the immune system, and stimulates the production of white blood cells.

Furthermore, it reduces oxidative stress, and contains vitamin B and vitamin E, which help to regulate the metabolism. It also has anti-inflammatory properties, and plenty of iron, which increases the production of red blood cells.

How much of an impact these nutritional benefits have on deer is hard to say, but alfalfa is certainly a valuable source of food for them, and most will choose to eat the fresh plant above other options when they are given the choice.

They are not as keen on the hay, but they will eat it if other food is not readily available, and it is a reasonably good source of food to provide, as long as there are other foods available too.

Should You Feed Wild Deer Alfalfa?

You can feed wild deer alfalfa plants or alfalfa hay if you wish to, but you should mix in other food sources so that they do not get too bloated from over-eating the hay.

They need foods that are high in carbohydrates and fats, as well as fiber, so that they can gain weight for the winter and start the spring fit and healthy. You should be looking to provide these foods where possible, especially when the weather is cold.

If you are going to feed wild deer alfalfa, try mixing in other foods, such as corn, grains, brassicas, and so on. Soybeans are an excellent source of fat, and will help to ensure that the deer have enough weight to stay warm through the cold months.

There is certainly no harm in feeding wild deer alfalfa, but remember that if the herd comes to rely on you as a source of food, you must continue to supply it, or you could cause mass starvation.

These animals will start to come to your garden to look for their meals, and if you suddenly withdraw them during the cold months, the deer may struggle to survive.


So, the answer to “do deer eat alfalfa?” is that they certainly will eat fresh alfalfa over many other foods if it’s available, and they are reasonably keen on alfalfa hay too. However, they will always choose the fresh plant when it’s on offer, and may ignore hay if there are other, more tempting food sources around (like fresh greenery). If you do feed deer alfalfa hay, be aware that this is not a complete food source, and the deer will benefit from being given sources of fat and carbohydrates too, otherwise they may struggle to gain enough weight to survive the winter.