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Prepare for the Summer Grazing Season: Consider Creep Feeding Calves March 16, 2022 @ 9:00pm

Many pastures were overgrazed last fall. As a result, the rate of forage regrowth and total forage available this year may be less than average. One strategy to stretch limited forage supplies is to provide a creep feed to calves 45 to 60 days old. They can digest whole grains and use the nutrients efficiently to improve growth rates. The creep feed consumed is a substitute for forage, stretching the amount of grass available for the cow.

Using whole oats or barley as the sole ingredient in a creep ration for small calves doesn’t work. A creep ration requires 14% to 18% protein and a minimum of 75% TDN (Total Digestible Nutrients) to frame out the skeleton properly and to develop muscle. Creep feed intake is generally in the 2 to 3 pounds a day range for 350 pound calves and can be as high as 8 pounds a day when the calves are 600 to 700 pounds. Calves under 700 pounds eat grain slowly and chew the material sufficiently that processing is not required. An Ontario Ministry of Agriculture factsheet indicates that on poor pastures, for every 5 pounds of creep feed consumed, calf growth rates improve by 1 pound.

To make a home-grown creep feed, include peas or lentils at 35% of the mix with oats or barley (or a combination of the two grains) for 400 to 500-pound calves. For very young calves 200 to 300 pounds, it is necessary to increase the peas to 50% of the grain mix. Providing a trace mineral salt or a salt mineral combination is required to provide trace minerals. When feeding a commercially pelleted product, it will contain the necessary minerals and trace minerals. Including Bovatec in the pellet also improves digestive efficiency.

Creep feeding the calves for the majority of the grazing season can result in 50 to 100 pounds of additional gain compared to animals that are not supplemented. It is a tool that can reduce pressure on pastures and improve pasture efficiency.

Barry Yaremcio

Ruminant Nutritionist


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