Better feed prices and concerns about lower-quality hay for the winter have some cow-calf producers once again thinking about a move back to the creep feeder, says Patrick Wall, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach beef program specialist.
In a recent editorial for the Iowa Beef Center's Growing Beef Newsletter titled, Creep Feeding Economics in 2014, Wall makes the case for creep feeding into fall:
"Research suggests cows can come in 20-30 pounds heavier and in better body condition if her calf has access to creep feed. A little extra flesh may help that cow endure a period of low quality hay or reduce the amount of purchased supplement it takes to get her back in a body condition score (BCS) of 6 prior to calving next spring."
Wall says the payoff for the calf is pretty simple. At $2 per pound times 50 pounds of added gain, that's $100 extra per calf.
"If we dig in a little further and use a feed tag example: a 400lbs. calf will consume about 1% of their body weight in creep feed per day. Cost of the diet is $0.14 per pound. Total cost is $0.56 per head. If the efficiency of the creep feed is 6:1, then every day we should see a benefit of 2/3 of a pound per calf. If you offer creep feed for the last 90 days on the cow, expect to spend roughly $50 per calf for 60 additional pounds of weaning weight.
"All said, those added pounds are worth $130 per calf, pocketing about $80 more NET PROFIT per head this fall, adjusting a little for market slide based on added weight."
Wall says a number of creep feed diets are on the market and each have different end goals. But considering a low-starch, fiber-based diet versus a grain mix could be the best option, he says, because the calf's rumen already is processing some forage, and they can efficiently utilize low-starch options.
What's more, Wall says this option may protect your now-more expensive investments.
"If August should turn hot and dry, your heavier milking and younger cows will thank you for the gesture, particularly those consuming mature and/or lower quality forage. With the sheer value of cattle versus commodity prices, anything we can do as producers to protect our investments into 2015 is a wise decision."
Continue reading in the IBC Growing Beef Newsletter.