Creep Feeding

 Knowledge Nuggets | Fact Sheets | Research Papers

Knowledge Nuggets

  • Creep feeding is the practice of providing supplemental feed to calves before weaning. Creep feeding helps to supplement mother's milk and pasture. The feed is provided in a facility designed so that adult animals are unable to consume the creep feed.
  • By providing creep feed, it is possible to increase preweaning weight gains.
  • The extra weight gained as a result of creep feeding is variable. The factors affecting the response are:
    • supply and quality of pasture
    • milk production of the dams
    • growth potential of calves
    • sex of calves
    • age of calf
    • type of feed
    • length of creep feeding period
    • distance travelled to creep feeder
  • Calves sucking good milking dams on good pasture will gain little from creep feeding, but if milk and/or pasture are poor, weaning weights can be substantially improved by creep feeding.
  • As calves approach weaning, their nutrient requirements increase. This increase is greater in calves with a good growth potential (i.e. male or crossbred calves). If the calves' nutrient requirements are greater than the nutrients supplied by milk and pasture, the calves' growth rate will be restricted.
  • The dam's milk production depends on her genetic capability, pasture availability, age and previous nutritional history.
  • Lactating beef cows grazing on good pasture early in the season can meet their nutritional needs for optimum milk production. However, by the time a calf is 90 days old, an average milking beef cow may produce enough milk to meet only one-half the nutrients needed by the calf for maximum growth.
  • Alternative management practices such as early weaning or providing high quality forage to calves can be considered as alternatives to creep feeding.
  • Creep grazing is another method for ensuring the nutrition provided to calves is adequate. In this situation, rotationally grazed pastures are managed so that calves have the ability to graze new paddocks before the cows.
  • In most cases, pastures become energy deficient later in the grazing season. Using energy-rich creep feeds will result in better growth. In an energy-deficient state, calves will substitute forage on pasture for creep feed, thereby reducing demand on pasture.
    In situations where cattle are grazing poor quality pasture, protein deficiencies will occur. Using protein-rich creep feeds will result in better growth rates.
  • Creep feeding can make calves fatter. Fat will collect in the mammary tissues of heifer calves causing permanent damage to the heifer’s ability to milk as an adult.
  • Creep feeding may have marketing implications to the calves if they are carrying to much fat at sale time.
Fact Sheets

Cow-calf decision making: creep feeding and creep grazing. - available in PDF format only

Creep Feeding - available in PDF format only

Creep Feeding Beef Calves

Creep Feeding Calculator

Creep Feeding Calves

Field Pea Grain for Beef Cattle - available in PDF format only

Limiting Feed Intake With Salt - available in PDF format only

Research Papers

Effects of Processing Field Peas in Creep Feed on Performance of Nursing Calves

Performance of Nursing Calves Fed Supplement with Varying Protein Levels - also available in PDF format
  For more information about the content of this document, contact Grant Lastiwka.
This document is maintained by Mary Ann Nelson.
This information published to the web on March 20, 2003.
Last Reviewed/Revised on March 24, 2015.

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