Improving Profit Margins Through Creep Feeding

June 22, 2020

What a year 2020 has been for all, but specifically for the beef industry, with beef prices on the rise this last month after a challenging few years, it is now vital that farms are as efficient as possible, ensuring profits from day one of the livestock – beginning with the calves!

With no substantial change on beef price and margins getting tighter, as input costs rise year on year, becoming systematic and cost clever is vital for any business to survive – which is where creep feeding comes in to maximise the value of your calves.

Creep feeding is the best return on investment for any beef farmer whilst reducing the number of days the calves are on farm, as well as giving the calves the correct balance of nutrition at a young age, when most needed.

With these adverse dry weather conditions, grass being burnt off and the lack of grass available, creeping calves has never been so crucial for beef farmers. At 120 days of age more than 50% of the calf’s nutritional requirements are being met by feeds other than their mother’s milk e.g. grass, silage or concentrates. Feed efficiency at this pre-weaning stage is at its highest compared to at any other stage of its life. On average the feed conversion ratio will be 4:1 for example, 1kg creep fed would mean 250g of daily live weight gain (dlwg). Therefore, creeping at a younger age is more cost effective.

There are also several other benefits of creep feeding where it maximises dry matter intake at a young age, this allows the rumen to develop properly and ensures calves meet their genetic potential. Weaning weights can be increased by 35-60kg per head, as well as reducing weaning stress and pneumonia at housing as the calves are already used to a concentrate which in turn minimises growth checks.

A high specification creep is Davidsons Excel with a 13.2 MJ/kg DM and 18% protein, it is a three starch formulation of Maize, Wheat and Barley to achieve optimum rumen balance, where Maize is one of the top ingredients which provides bypass starch. It also has a blend of high-quality protein sources where the main source is Soya providing high levels of DUP, this ensures maximum growth of the stocks frame. Bypass starch and protein in the diet are essential for better rumen efficiency ensuring the animal makes best use of the concentrate provided. When selecting the correct concentrate for creep feeding, £20 – £30 per tonne often sounds like a large difference but as discussed below a small increase in dlwg, can lead to huge profit over the course of time. In summary it is crucial to check the raw materials and crude protein of the diet, nutrition is the key way to improving efficiency on farm, and having the correct minerals is vital.

Increasing the quality and energy of a calf creep is shown to further promote efficiency through improved rumen function and feed to gain ratio. The table below demonstrates this by increasing the specification of the cake can increase dlwg more than 0.4 kg, over a period of 180 days this can be equivalent to an extra 72 kg of lwg. Taking the current market prices, an extra 72 kg can result in an additional £158.40 per calf. From the extra value at market if we subtract the extra cost of feeding the higher energy cake (£36.00 over 180 days), it would mean almost £122.40 in profit. Multiplying this by 100 calves sold off the unit, it can result in outstanding profits of almost £12,240. These figures show the importance of a high quality concentrate in meeting margins, as well as the calves on farm for fewer days, which will also save on additional costs.

Although you might think calf creeping is an extra cost, in the long run it will benefit your profit margins.

Table 1. Financial impact of increased ME in the ration increasing daily live weight gain.

Formulation Spec

Protein

DLWG

Cost of Product

Cost of Product (£/kg)

Extra Cost (Compared to control)

Extra Cost Over 180 days fed

Extra LWG over 180 days fed

Value of extra gain per calf

@ £2.20 per kg

Overall Profit Gain

Average

18

1.00

£230

£0.232

0 (Control)

0 (Control)

0 (Control)

0 (Control)

0 (Control)

Good

18

1.2

£240

£0.240

0.10 p

£18.00

36 kg

£79.20

£61.20

Excel

18

1.4

£250

£0.250

0.20 p

£36.00

72 kg

£158.40

£122.40

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