While there’s no silver bullet to consistent pricing or guaranteed premiums, creep feeding calves is one management tool you can use to make your calves more marketable, and in turn, put more dollars in your pocket. Today, our friends at Cargill share their expertise on livestock. Read on to find out how creep feeding could crank up the dial on raising calves.
Creep feeds are designed to supplement calves nutritionally before weaning. Well-formulated creep feeds improve growth of your calves before they are weaned and lay the foundation for enhanced health and performance.
Is Creep Feeding Right for Me?
Whether you’re a seedstock producer looking to sell premium stock in a production sale or private treaty, or a commercial operator whose calves go on feed, creep feed has a role in all operations.
In general, you can anticipate an additional 30 to 50 pounds per calf when creep feeding. Expect to feed about eight to 10 pounds of creep for every one pound of gain (on the high end).
If calf prices are at $1.65/cwt and you’ve added 40 pounds per calf by creeping, that’s an additional $66.00 per calf in your pocket. Based on your scenario, consumption rates, forage quality, and cost of creep, it’s important to estimate whether the additional pounds are worth the investment.
As you consider the economics, don’t underestimate the more intangible benefits of creep feed, such as:
- Spared forage as creep-fed calves consume less forage
- Increased efficiency as heifers reach breeding weight sooner
- Improved health as creep-fed calves take to feed faster when they are weaned or started in the feedyard.
When Should I Introduce Creep Feed to Calves?
Your cow herd’s milking ability and forage quality both play a role in when you should start creeping your calves. Generally, 100-days post-calving is when you should begin evaluating not if you should put out creep feed, but when.
Over 205 days, a cow will typically give about 12 to 13 pounds of milk per day. However, her milking ability will likely peak around 60 days post-calving. After this peak, known as “the hungry calf gap,” the milk she’s delivering won’t meet the calf’s nutritional needs.
Consider the following when deciding when to deliver creep:
- Herd’s milking ability
- Forage quality (higher quality forage = longer time until the creep is needed)
- Forage type (some forages, like fescue, warrant creep feed sooner)
- Weaning program (if you’re early-weaning, start creeping sooner)
Choosing the Right Product
Higher quality creep feed results in more efficient gain. When evaluating quality, ask yourself:
- Does the manufacturer have a quality control program in place to ensure the product is safe and matches the feed tag of what is inside the bag?
- Does this creep feed contain nutrients from which my calves will benefit?
- Does it pencil out to help me remain profitable? (Don’t forget to consider those less tangible profitability factors).
NutreBeef® Starter Creep Feed is an economical option designed to meet your calves’ pre-weaning needs with 14 percent protein, 15 percent fiber, and 2.5 percent crude fat.
Feeding Creep Products
Ready to start creep feeding?
One final consideration is where and how you’ll put out the feed. There are self-feeders specifically designed for calves and creep feeding, but if you don’t have a creep feeder or cannot purchase one, you can design a feeding space of your own.
When setting up for creep feeding, there are two main requirements:
- Calf access: Be sure your calves can always safely enter and exit the feed area. Also, check that your mature cattle cannot eat the calves feed or get stuck trying.
- Weather protection. Only use creep feeders designed to protect the feed from the elements, as creep feeds are not weatherized. Check out this 650lb Creep Feeder with Feed Control Band!
Could creep feeding help your cattle operation turn a profit? It’s definitely something to consider.
The Rural King blog has several livestock articles you should check out as well. Check them out on our Livestock Category Page.
We post new content every Friday, so make sure to bookmark our blog page and visit weekly!