Creep Feed – The Drive for Efficiency

June 29, 2017

With the spring bloom of new arrivals now past and grass having eventually arrived, all classes of livestock are thriving in the preferable conditions at present. However, it is imperative to keep these young animals growing at all costs as the key to profitability is efficiency. At younger ages, calves and lambs have a high Feed Conversion Efficiency, but as age increases, this efficiency drops significantly.

At 3-4 months old a calf is only gaining half of its nutrients required for maximum growth from its mother, the other 50% must be supplied from elsewhere. It’s a similar story in lambs as well with Feed Conversion ratios dropping from 4:1 in younger lambs to 12:1 in older lambs. Therefore the best time to supply a creep is at this young age. Creep feeding is essential in ruminants to avoid the well-known ‘weaning check’. At this stage, issues such as pneumonia can be brought on very easily as the young animal is under immense stress to alter its diet from a mainly fat based source to a carbohydrate based diet. Therefore animals that are supplemented prior to weaning have better developed rumens to cope with the pressures associated with separation.

From a management point of view it also takes the pressure off cows and ewes that are milking hard and needing to get back in calf/lamb again. Extra stress on the mother at this stage can lead to poorer fertility and a lower body condition score, something that can be very difficult to make up during pregnancy. Supplementary feeding also allows producers to target earlier markets where prices tend to be more favourable, there is also the added bonus of more grass being available with stock being sold off farm earlier in the year.

Author : Fraser MacNicol

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