Creep Feeding Calves

Weaning calves is one of the most stressful times for cattle. Taking them away from their main food source and their mother at the same time causes tremendous stress. Stress is the main cause of many illnesses that are associated with weaning. Stress weakens the immune system and allows the viruses that are usually fought of by a healthy immune system to take hold. A good weaning program can help reduce stress, and in turn helps reduce sickness. A good vaccination program can also help calves through the weaning process in a safer manner. Because it takes almost a week for most common vaccines to begin to work, a vaccination at weaning will not be effective during the most crucial time period. Working your calves three weeks before weaning and giving them their first round of respiratory vaccines at that time will ensure their immune system is already built up at the time of weaning. Also, be sure to give them a booster at weaning.

Nutrition plays a key role in weaning a calf successfully. If a calf is eating well and taking in a lot of energy, the calf can withstand more stress than with poor nutrition. This is why choosing a weaning ration is very important. Purina's Precon/Receiving Chow has been one of the leading weaning rations for many years. It was developed to be fed as a free choice feed to calves before and at weaning. Due to its high fiber content it can be the sole ration calves eat at weaning. With high-energy content, along with high fiber content, and great palatability, calves intake is exceptional. This ration should be fed free choice to calves for 21 to 25 days.

This will get them through the most stressful period and treat most viruses.

The Hungry Calf Gap
As a calf nears two to three months of age, the cow's milk production peaks and then begins to fall-- precisely at a time when the calf's nutritional requirements are increasing. The result is "the hungry calf gap."

To compensate for the milk decline, the calf tries to meet its nutritional needs by eating more forage. However, during the June to October period, the quality of the forage and its nutritional value starts to decline. Protein, energy, and phosphorus content of the grass may fall from 12 percent to 5 percent or less, 55 percent to 43 percent or less, and 0.2 percent to 0.08 percent or less, respectively.

As the growing calf tries to meet its increasing requirements for protein, energy and, phosphorus, the cow’s milk supply and forage quality are both declining. Adding to that, the calf is also in competition with the cow for shorter quantities of grass.

The Purina Creep Feeding Program allows the cattleman to achieve the optimal potential from his calves that a declining milk output and grass quality cannot provide.

The Advantage of Creep Feeding
Purina Research indicates that you can successfully add 56-86 pounds to the weaning weight of your calves with a proper creep-feeding program.

Like most other proven cattle management practices, creep feeding is productive when practiced correctly. Its demonstrated advantages include:

  • Better development. Providing optimal nutrition through controlled creep feeding does not add fat - it improves development of muscle and skeleton.
  • Increased weaning weights. Improved weaning weights that come without depositing excess finish offer you the increased weaning weights you really want. Profitable weaning weights can even be achieved with first-calf heifers that often experience lower relative milk production than multi-parity cows.
  • Captured genetic potential. Providing nutrition that doesn’t add fat means calves develop to their full genetic potential. Full-frame development positions them to gain profitably in the feed yard.
  • Improved total resource use. Better daily gain and feed efficiency on grass—even in the face of declining forage quality and quantity—means your out-of-pocket investment in creep feed gives you a return on investment through better utilization of your forage base.
  • Better lifetime efficiency. Studies show creep feeding’s increased gain is maintained throughout the finishing period. If you’re retaining ownership, creep-fed calves will make you even more profit.
  • A higher-quality product. Calves developed to their full potential, accustomed to the bunk, and ready to gain, bring more dollars from quality-conscious marketing channels. And, when you retain ownership, that quality benefits you directly.
  • Improved starter performance. Creep feeding acclimates calves to the bunk, ensuring a better start and more consistent performance in the feeding phase. In Purina research studies, creep-fed calves ate significantly more starter in week 1 than non-creep-fed calves, gained more overall, and were healthier.

Managing the Creep Feed Program
Purina Mills’ Creep Feed program, featuring 4-Square Stocker/Grower fills the hungry calf gap permitting the calf to express its full potential. To get the most from your creep-feed program, remember:

Manage feeding. Place feed in a creep feeder or bunk where only calves have access. This can be accomplished with standard creep panels or gates positioned with openings wide enough for only the calves to pass. Place the feeder or sheltered bunks around cows’ loafing area, near water, or mineral feeders. Distribute loose hay around the feeder to entice calves to enter the creep-feed area. Free-choice consumption will depend on age and size of calf, the cow’s milking ability, and forage quality and quantity.