The energy source in creep rations is usually grain. Oats is one of the higher energy grains and is preferred. Barley can be considered, but because calves are irregular feeders, there is a greater propensity for digestive problems with this grain. Wheat and corn can be used in limited amounts.
Grains can be fed whole, cracked, or rolled. Fine grinding can create digestive upsets. Pelleting allows for less separation of the ingredients. To boost protein, you can add soybean meal, canola meal, dehydrated alfalfa pellets, or a commercial protein supplement.
Calves destined for breeding should receive rations with at least 50 per cent oats. This prevents them from getting too fat.
Palatability with creep rations is important. It falls if the ration is exposed to the weather. Only put a week’s worth in the feeder at a time to keep it fresh. Adding screenings from lentils can boost palatability; those from canola lower it.
Flavour can also be better with added bran, molasses, or trace mineralized salt. However, high levels of molasses (in excess of three per cent) may attract flies and cause scours.
Boosting the protein content of creep feed by adding urea or ammoniating forage is not advised for calves because they would then need to consume a high energy feed for the microbes to be able to use the urea.
In some cases, ingredients are added to limit intake. Diluting the ration with bran or dehydrated alfalfa can reduce overeating. If low-quality pasture is available, it is advantageous to offer a high-protein creep feed but limit its intake by adding salt (2 to 8 per cent).
Milk production and calf requirements
A 200-pound calf needs about 25 pounds milk daily. If the cow can only produce 15 pounds, the calf must get the rest from solid food, approximately 4.5 pounds each day.
When a calf has doubled its weight to 400 pounds, milk production may have fallen to 10 pounds per day due to poorer pasture conditions. To maintain growth, the calf must also consume 10.5 pounds of forage each day.
The forage the calf consumes must be high quality, enabling the calf to get the needed nutrition (mainly protein) without having to eat an extraordinary amount of feed. This is what creep feeding is designed to do — offer high-quality, concentrated feed that meets a calf’s requirements.
factors that have an effect on response to creep feed
Type of creep feed.
Length of time creep feed is offered. Milk production of the dams. Availability and type of pasture. Growth potential of the calves. Sex of calf and age at weaning. When calving occurs (season).