Condensed tannins (CT) can reduce digestibility of forages for white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), potentially confounding estimates of diet quality and nutritional carrying capacity. We collected 143 spring and 142 summer samples of 8 important deer forage species from 22 properties in Mississippi, USA, and tested for CT content using a modified butanol-HCl assay. Three species (partridge pea [Chamaecrista fasciculata], southern dewberry [Rubus trivialis], and roundleaf greenbrier [Smilax rotundifolia]) contained CT, ranging from 0.11% to 6.46% dry weight. Summer CT concentration was greater than in spring for 2 species. We ranked soil samples from least to most fertile using 8 chemical characteristics and found a positive correlation between fertility and CT concentration for 1 species and no correlation for 2 species. We tested effects of CT concentration on in vitro dry matter disappearance (IVDMD) and in vitro protein digestibility using samples of partridge pea and roundleaf greenbrier and rumen fluid from 3 free-ranging deer. Average IVDMD was reduced 1.9% for each 1% increase in CT concentration. In vitro protein digestibility was reduced 2.5% for each 1% increase in CT concentration. Assuming that our methods reflect the effects of CT on in vivo digestibility, maximum loss of available crude protein (CP) in our samples was 3.0 g/100 g dry-weight forage, and only 13 of the 112 CT-containing forage samples (12%) would have decreased available CP by >1 g/100 g dry-weight forage. Deer consuming equal portions of sampled forages would lose <1% of dietary CP to CT. Comparisons of foraging area quality using crude protein estimates should be unaffected by CT under reasonable restrictions of similar habitat types, soil fertility, and time. Given the ability of deer to forage selectively and the abundance of alternative forages in Mississippi, the potential for CT to substantially affect spring or summer diet quality of deer appears minimal.
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Vol. 74 • No. 4