North Dakota State University
Central Grasslands Research Extension Center

Creep Feeding Fall Born Calves
By Brian Kreft, Jackie Kreft, Ritchie Cargo and Dwight Schmidt


Fall calving is not typical in North Dakota, but it is increasing. With its increase, many management questions arise. One decision that must be made is whether or not to creep feed. Weaning weights of fall born calves are usually lighter than those of spring born calves. Creep feeding may improve the weaning weights of these calves, but may reduce their performance on grass or in the feedlot.

Central Grasslands Research Center initiated a study in January 1996 to evaluate the performance and economics of creep feeding fall born calves with either soybean oil meal or whole oats. We also wanted to document the effect of creep feeding on later growth and creep feeding's effect on the cow.

Materials and Methods

A total of 86 cow-calf pairs were used in this two-year unreplicated study. The cows and calves were randomly assigned to one of three treatments by cow weight, cow age, calf sex, and calf weight. The calves were all sired by similar bulls. The treatments were control (no creep), limit fed soybean oil meal, and self fed whole oats. The soybean oil meal group was limit fed twice per week, while the whole oats group had unlimited access to oats.

The cattle were weighed and sorted in January. The calves and cows were also weighed at weaning in April. The cows were fed long stem hay in hay feeders. All three pens were fed equally. The hay was approximately 50% alfalfa-grass hay and 50% oat hay. The soybean oil meal fed to the calves was 48% crude protein and the oats was 37 lbs/bushel Dumont oats.

Results and Discussion: Performance

The calves readily consumed both creep feeds. We fed the soybean oil meal group twice per week, trying to get a consumption of about one pound of soybean oil meal per day. Table 1 gives the performance of the calves during the suckling period. The starting weights were similar (359, 358, and 359 lbs). The weaning weights showed a considerable difference with the control group averaging 500 lbs, the soybean oil meal group at 526 lbs, and the oats group at 589 lbs. This difference also showed in their 86 day ADG. The control group had an ADG of 1.64, the soybean oil meal group averaged 1.95, and the oats fed group had an ADG of 2.67. The control group gained 141 pounds over this 86 day period. The soybean oil meal group gained 168 pounds or 27 pounds more than the controls. The oats group had the most gain at 230 pounds, which was 89 pounds more than the controls.

Table 1. Creep Feeding Fall Calves: Suckling Period.
Two Year Averages

 
Control
Soybean
Oil Meal

Oats
No. of Head

Average Start Weight

Average Weaning Weight

86 day ADG

Gain/Calf (lbs)

Advantage (lbs)

29

359

500

1.64

141

--

29

358

526

1.95

168

+27

28

359

589

2.67

230

+89

Table 2 shows that creep feeding also had an effect on the cows. The control group started at 1363 pounds and weaned at 1275 pounds for a 88 pound loss. The soybean oil meal group was intermediate with a 63 pound loss, while the oats group lost18 pounds over the 86 day period. All the cows were fed the same. The calves from the soybean oil meal group and oats group had supplemental feed so more hay was available to their mothers. This may explain the differences in gains.

Table 2. Creep Feeding Fall Cows: Suckling Period.
Two-Year Averages

 

Control

Soybean
Oil Meal


Oats
No. of head

Average Start Weight

Average Weaning Weight

86 day Gain/Loss (lbs)

29

1363

1275

-88

29

1361

1298

-63

28

1354

1336

-18

All of the calves were weaned in April and then backgrounded for about 45 days before turnout onto native prairie pastures. Table 3 shows the performance results from this period as well as the total gain. The control group had the lightest weaning weights (500 lbs) and also were the lightest coming off the pasture. The soybean oil meal fed calves and oats fed calves had the same final weights (763 lbs) with very similar total gains (405 lbs vs 404 lbs). The oats fed calves had the slowest gains once on grass of 1.27 lbs per day. The soybean oil meal group was 30 pounds heavier and the oats group was 29 pounds heavier than the control group.

Table 3. Creep Feeding: Fall Calves Backgrounding and Grazing Period.
Two-year Averages

 

Control

Soybean
Oil Meal


Oats
Average Start Weight

Average Final Weight

154 day ADG

Total Gain (236 day)

Advantage

500

734

1.52

375

--

526

763

1.54

405

+30

568

763

1.27

404

+29

 

 Results and Discussion: Economics

Table 4 gives a breakdown of the feed costs involved. On average the soybean oil meal group calves consumed 105 pounds of soybean oil meal, or a daily consumption of 1.22 pounds. The soybean oil meal was valued at $280 per ton for a total feed cost of $14.70. The oats group had an average consumption of 571 pounds over the 86 days, or a daily consumption of 6.64 pounds. The oats was valued at $1.50 per bushel. They had a total feed cost of $26.84.


Table 4. Creep Feeding Fall Calves Economics: Feed Costs. Two-Year Averages
 

Control

Soybean
Oil Meal


Oats
Feed Consumed (lbs)

Daily Consumption (lbs)

Feed Cost/lb

Total Feed Cost

0

0

0

0

105

1.22

$.14

$14.70

571

6.64

$.047

$26.84

Table 5 shows the results of creep feeding if the calves were sold at weaning. The calves were all valued at $75/cwt. The market at that time was about $72/cwt for heifers and $78/cwt for steers with little discrimination for heavier weights. The average of the control group was $375. The soybean oil meal group averaged $394.50, while the oats group averaged $426. When the feed costs were deducted, the soybean oil meal group had a $4.80 advantage and the oats group a $24.16 advantage over the control group.


Table 5. Creep Feeding Fall Calves Economics: Suckling Period. Two-Year Averages
 

Control

Soybean
Oil Meal


Oats
Weaning Weight

Value (@$75/cwt.)

Creep Feeding Cost

Net Return

Advantage

500

$375

$0.00

$375

$0.00

526

$394.50

$14.70

$379.80

+$4.80

568

$426.00

$26.84

$399.16

+$24.16

Table 6 shows the economics if the calves were pastured during the summer and sold off grass in September. The calves were again valued at $68/cwt. The soybean oil meal group returned $5.02 more than the controls, while the oats fed calves lost $7.12.


Table 6. Creep Feeding Fall Calves Economics: Backgrounding and Grazing Period.
 

Control

Soybean
Oil Meal


Oats
Final Weight

Value (@$68/cwt)

Creep Cost

Net Return

Advantage

734

$499.12

0

$499.12

0

763

$518.84

$14.70

$504.14

+$5.02

763

$518.84

$26.84

$492.00

-$7.12

 

Conclusions

Creep feeding with either soybean oil meal or oats increased weaning weights and is probably a good management tool for fall born calves if they are sold at weaning in the spring. This advantage becomes less profitable as the calves are pastured and sold in the fall. This study will be continued in the future to increase our confidence with the results. We may also look at other alternative feeds to use as creep feed.


Brian Kreft
Assistant Range Scientist
North Dakota State University
Central Grasslands Research Center
4824 48th Ave. SE
Streeter, ND 58483
Phone: 701-424-3606
E-mail: grasland@ndsuext.nodak.edu


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