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The Cattle Connection

The cattlemen's connection to timely topics, current research, and profitable management strategies
creep feeding2

Management in a Drought: Part 2

Creep feeding is a management strategy that provides supplemental nutrition to calves still nursing momma cows. Sources of creep feed usually include grains, co-products, commercial supplements, or if available high quality forages.

Creep Feeding is a practice that has been used to increase weaning weights. In today's market where pounds are worth quite a bit (500lb. calf is ~$180/cwt.), creep feeding can net a return. Check out this bit by SDSU's Heather Larson

Advantages of Creep Feeding:

  • Heavier weaning weights
  • Easier transition at weaning
  • Fills nutritional gap of low-milking cows or first-calf heifers
  • Fills nutritional gap in high growth potential calves

Disadvantages of Creep Feeding:

  • Loose compensatory gain
  • Lower future milk production in heifers
  • Corn- based creep can cause negative associative effects
  • Added feed costs

A common misconception is that creep feeding will reduce nursing pressure on the cow. This is not the case. Calves prefer milk first, thus calves that are creep-fed will have similar milk intake to non-creep-fed calves.

Although creep feeding will not help reduce suckling of the cow, Cremin et al. reported in 1991 that when calves were offered free-choice creep feed, forage intake decreased. Every pound of creep feed consumed replaced approximately half a pound of forage.

Obviously, creep feeding has a minimal impact on reducing forage intake of the herd. The reduction will occur in the calves and most likely little to no reduction in the cows. Creep feeding can add valuable weight at weaning, provide easier transitions at weaning, and allow a producer to fill nutritional gaps that may occur in the calf due to low milking cows or high growth potential of calves.

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