Never Let Your Calves Have a Bad Day

Jul 21, 2022

Justin Crocheck
Senior Cattle Consultant

We can unlock the potential of our calves from day one by making the commitment to never letting them have a bad day. One way to avoid a bad day is to make sure that they always have plenty of feed available to them, including creep feed. Creep feeding should be an essential part of our cow-calf operations because it benefits the whole herd.
 The Advantages of Creep Feeding are as follows:
1) Increased weaning weights
2) Reduced nutrient demand on the cow
3) Improved health of calves because of enhanced levels of vitamins and trace minerals that boost the immune system
4) Creep feeding teaches calves how to eat
5) It allows calves to express their genetic differences
6) It allows us to early wean calves if weather or cow conditions push us to change our weaning plans

The Advantages of Early Weaning are as follows:
1) Increases forage available for the cow 10-15%
2) Cow nutrient requirements decrease 30-50% after weaning
3) Improvement in Cow BCS (body condition score) because of reduced requirements
4) Early weaned calves have higher quality grades if continued on high energy rations
10 Helpful Tips to make sure your calves never have a bad day:
  • Don’t put the creep feeder in the pasture until you are ready to put creep feed in it.   Calves will avoid a feeder that they have found to be empty before.
  • Be sure the cattle see you put creep feed in the feeder when it is placed in the pasture, so they find the feed right away.
  • Place the creep feeder initially at a location where cows congregate such as near water, shade, or a mineral feeder.
  • Don’t completely fill the feeder with the first feed. Put a small amount of creep feed in the feeder at first so it will stay fresh.
  • Don’t open the feed trough slides too wide. Slides should be 1-2 finger widths. Wide open slides waste feed and causes fines to accumulate.
  • Check feeders after rain showers and remove wet feed from the trough. Wet feed will mold and plug up the feeder.
  • Include an ionophore in the creep feed to improve feed utilization and reduce the incidence of coccidiosis. Research has also demonstrated that ionophores can reduce incidence of bloat and acidosis.
  • Make sure the area inside the creep panels is large enough for calves to maneuver. If calves can’t turn around, they can get trapped in the creep area, overeat, and die.
  • The creep feeder doesn’t have to stay in the same location all summer. Moving creep feeders away from high traffic areas after calves are eating well can lower intake and improve grazing distribution.
  • Don’t let feeders run empty especially in late season when calves are eating well.

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