Creep Feeding Tips

Posted: May 6, 2019

heat stress

Creep feeding calves is an excellent way to put extra pounds on calves.  Research has shown that creep feeding significantly increases weaning weight.  The University of Nebraska-Lincoln recently published a study that showed that creep fed calves on average gained 44 pounds more than non-creep fed calves at the time of weaning.  (Is Creep Feeding Beef Calves Profitable, UN-L, Devin Broadhead, Matt Stockton Feb. 1, 2019) These calves had an average feed conversion rate of 8.44 pounds, totaling 385 pounds of feed consumed per calf for the feeding period.   This study also demonstrated that creep fed calves retained added weight from weaning through slaughter.  Creep feeding offers the most benefit when conditions are less than ideal. 

Benefits of creep feeding:

  • It adds weight and finish.
  • Calves of the same age grow to a more uniform size.
  • There is less shrinkage at weaning time.
  • Creep feeding can increase profitability when:
    • Calf prices are high relative to feed prices.
    • Pastures begin to decline in quality.
    • Dams are first or second calf heifers.
    • The growth potential of the calf isn’t being met with milk and forage.
    • Calves are being reared when grazing is impossible.

It is important to run the numbers to know if creep feeding is a good investment for you.  In order for creep feeding to be profitable, the cost of the added gain must be offset by the market price of the calf at market time, keeping in mind that a heavier calf will generally sell for lower cost per pound than a lighter calf.  When calculating costs, be sure to include labor and feeder maintenance costs as well as the cost of the creep feed. 

If you decide to creep feed, follow these tips for best results:

  • Locate the feeder close to water, shade, mineral tubs, or any area that cows frequent.
  • Allow 4 to 6 inches of trough space per calf.
  • Sprinkle some feed on the ground near the feeder to entice calves.
  • Clean and adjust feeders often.
  • Do not let the feeders run out.
  • Add Hydro Lac® a week prior to moving the calves.   Hydro Lac provides electrolytes and energy, which have been proven to facilitate dry matter intake and reduce the loss of vital nutrients which occur due to moving and stress.  

Form-A-Feed has several excellent creep feed products to fit your needs.  These include several complete calf creep pellets such as the Cattle 14% Calf Creep (available with Bovatec® or Rumensin®) and the Proficient 16% Calf Creep B-90.  These products are both very palatable and offer the convenience of a complete feed, requiring no additional mixing.   If you want to mix your own creep feed, Tend-R-Leen 525 NBC is a 25% protein concentrate pellet that can be used for creep feed and growing calf diets.  This product also comes in an all-natural version with Deccox®.   If you have questions on whether creep feeding is right for you, please talk to your Form-A-Feed Representative about creep feeding options and calculating rate of return for your operation.