About Beef Cattle Creep Feeding and Weaning Early.
Creep feeding takes the pressure off the cows, leaving them as much as 50 pounds heavier in the fall. That’s important for winter maintenance. Calves gain efficiently, with feed conversions between 5:1 and 7:1. You will have heavier calves in the fall.
Calves like whole, coarsely cracked or rolled grain. The creep ration should contain 70 per cent Total Digestible Nutrients (energy) and 12 percent or more crude protein. Good quality whole oats is favored by many cattlemen. When pastures are dry it pays to increase protein in the creep feed. Use a natural protein source (no urea); pelletized is best so it won’t separate. An example creep feed might be 40 percent rolled barley, 50 per cent whole oats and 10 percent pelleted canola meal or commercial 32 (0) supplement.
The creep area doesn’t have to be elaborate. Many styles of commercial creep feeders are available for purchase. However you can economize and fence off an area close to water or salt, preferably with shade. An opening 16 to 18 inches wide and 3 to 3.5 feet high will let calves in and keep cows out. The creep feed can be fed in feed bunks, troughs or self feeders.
Start the calves on feed slowly, increase gradually. If too much feed is put out at first, some calves may overeat. Also the leftover feed will get stale and calves may back off. Once calves are used to the creep, don’t let it run empty. Creep feeding works better on smaller pastures than open range with long distances between water holes or salt licks.
Wean the calves as early as possible. Feeding them directly is cheaper than feeding the cows to maintain production plus it allows the cows to pick up condition before winter. Calves can be weaned as young as 100 days, with no problems, provided they are fed a high quality feed. The feed should contain about 70 percent Total Digestible Nutrients, 14 percent crude protein ( no urea), 0.6 percent calcium and 0.45 percent phosphorus. Talk to your livestock specialist or feed company. You may consider the ration more expensive per ton than cow feed. With calf intake about 8 pounds per day and gain about two pounds per day, it’s low cost gain. Calves on creep feed for even two or three weeks before weaning, will wean and go on feed much easier. Follow recommended weaning practices to reduce stress on the calf. Where possible “process” the calf three weeks before weaning. Treat weaning as a single stress.
Calves can be weaned at 3 to 4 months if they are given a high quality ration. It is cheaper to feed the calves directly than to feed the cows for milk production.