A natural decline in both grass growth and cow milk yields in between July and September means creep feeding is a no brainer if you want to maintain calf growth rates.
There are numerous reasons why supplementing calves at this time of year is a win win:
1. Maintains growth rates
If you’re spring calving, a dam’s milk production will start to reduce around this time, whilst both grass quality and quantity will decline. Bridging that gap with an appropriate creep feed can help get calves away quicker, which ultimately helps efficiencies.
2. Makes the most of a calf’s high feed conversion efficiency
An animal’s feed conversion efficiency (FCE) is at its highest when they are young. For example, at 4-5 months of age their FCE is about 4:1 (1kg of weight gain for every 4kg of feed consumed). This means it’s far more cost-effective to grow kilos at this age - You may as well grow them as fast as you can, as young as possible.
3. Increases weaning weights
This is one of the biggest plusses from creep feeding. Creep fed young calves usually weigh about 25-30kg more at weaning. Strong, good looking calves are a particular plus for those farmers selling calves straight off the dam.
The extra weight gain also makes creep feeding cost-effective. For example:
• If a calf weighs 30kg more at weaning, that’s worth about £60 per animal (15kg DW at £4/kg = £60 or 30kg LW at £2 = £60)
• A 16% rearing cake costs about £260-£270 per tonne and a calf will eat roughly 125-150kg
• As a worst-case scenario, creep could cost £40.50 per calf (£270 x 150kg = £40.50)
• This delivers a cost-benefit of about £20 per calf.
4. Teaches calves to eat hard feed
Introducing creep now will mean calves are used to eating concentrate before housing. It also means the rumen microbes are used to hard feed. As a result, calves are more likely to hit the ground running
post-weaning. This will help reduce any growth checks at this time.
5. Helps reduce the risk of health issues post-weaning
Getting calves used to creep and growing well reduces stress levels at weaning which can help lower the risk of pneumonia.