Creep Feeding Considerations for 2015

As late summer pasture conditions begin to diminish and forage supply is no longer adequate to maximize pre-weaning gains, cow-calf producers begin to ask the annual question “should I creep feed my calves?” For most commercial operations, the answer is typically “it depends.” Many factors go in to making the decision of whether or not to creep feed calves including forage resource availability, whether or not ownership is retained in the feedlot, current feed costs, and feeder calf price.

In a majority of production situations, forage resources begin to diminish in late summer. This leaves cows with less energy above maintenance for milk production. This reduction in milk production, coupled with the subsequent reduction in forage available for calves, directly reduces the available feed resources for calves and will decrease pre-weaning performance. In these situations, creep feed can be used to fill this nutritional gap and improve gains. While pasture conditions have been better than average this summer, most producers will still realize an increase in pounds weaned with creep feeding their calves.

Creep feeding has been shown to have benefits beyond simply adding pre-weaning pounds. Upon entering the feedlot, creep fed calves have been shown to have increased feed intakes and subsequent gains than their non-creep fed counterparts. In addition, these calves have already been exposed to a bunk type feeding situation, making them less naïve and more able to be transitioned to bunk feeding than non-creep fed calves. Moreover, creep fed calves have been shown to have greater marbling scores and quality grades at harvest. While this may not offer a direct benefit if ownership is not retained, buyers who understand these benefits may seek out creep fed calves and offer a greater price for them.

The factors of feed costs and feeder calf price play complementary roles. Together they determine the value of additional calf weight gain and the net return after feed cost. During times of high feed costs and low calf prices, the cost of feed may outweigh the increased calf sales price. This leaves producers with little to no incentive to creep feed. However, when calf prices are near record high levels and feed costs are relatively moderate (such as the present), the net return on creep feeding may be quite large.

The type of creep feed used will also play a role in this return. While low protein and poorly fortified creep feeds may offer the lowest cost per ton, they may not offer the lowest cost of gain due to poor conversion efficiency (some as low as 10-15:1). High protein, properly fortified creep feeds such as Form-A-Feed’s Proficient Calf Creep may come with a bigger price tag, but the improved feed conversion rates they offer can yield a lower cost of gain and enhanced return on investment versus the competition. (Click here for details). In addition, high protein creep feeds will yield a more lean gain than low protein creep feeds. The result is less fleshy calves in the sale ring which will fetch a higher price.

Contact your Form-A-Feed beef representative about creep feeding strategies and to discuss how Proficient Calf Creep can help you to maximize your calves’ potential and your bottom line.