In recent years, the changes and challenges that has faced the livestock sector, in particular the beef industry, has meant farmers have had to become more efficient. Looking at new ways to get the most out of their livestock, the beef sector has increased the push for efficiency and improving performance. This all starts with the calves. With the current ever-changing Scottish weather, there’s never been a better time to start introducing calves to creep feed. Calves are most economically productive pre-weaning, with the feed efficiency of spring born calves being higher just now than at any other stage of their life. Their feed conversion ratio (FCR) can be as good as 4:1 at this stage, meaning that 1kg of creep feed could achieve as much as 250g of live weight gain. Therefore, creep feeding at the pre-weaning stage not only provides calves with all their nutritional requirements, but proves far more cost effective by gaining you a better return.
There is an array of other benefits to creep feeding calves; starch present in creep feed, when converted to fatty acids, helps to stimulate good rumen development. This allows calves the best opportunity to reach their genetic potential. Increased weaning weights can be achieved through creep feeding, as well as reducing stress during this period. This results in less of a growth check along with a reduced risk of pneumonia when being housed. Feeding creep can reduce the number of days the animal is on farm and provide calves with a better bloom at the time of selling. These animals will also go on to be finished far easier.
In addition to this, supplementing calves can have benefits for the cow too. It can help reduce the pressure in challenging weather, allowing her to recover condition and ensuring optimum fertility for going back to the bull. All of these benefits can have a big impact on margins and creep feeding can provide one of the best returns on investment. Figure 1 below shows the nutritional demand of a calf pre-weaning, along with the gap that needs supplemented during this stage to ensure optimum growth and performance.
Figure 1. Milk yield of a typical beef cow vs nutrient requirement of a nursing calf.
East Coast Viners Second Stage Calf Nut + Xtract is a high spec compound feed ideal for creep feeding. It features an optimum protein of 17% and high energy at 12.5ME. Formulated to be high in starch for greater rumen development, it also includes high quality protein sources such as soya for increased levels of DUP. This creep feed supports high frame growth rates while ensuring rumen efficiency. This complementary feed is fully mineralised to promote a healthy immune system. ECV’s Second Stage Nuts are also formulated to include Xtract, an additive proven to enhance animal performance. This is achieved by improving feed conversion efficiency by up to 7.5%, boosting rumen function and increasing daily live weight gain (DLWG) by as much as 8%. Methane production can also be reduced by up to 6%.
By providing calves with a high-quality creep feed to supplement their diet pre-weaning, you are giving them the best opportunity to maximise their potential. Through supporting their development, you are ensuring an economically efficient way to improve performance and boost returns.
By Joanne Hay, ECV Ruminant Nutritionist.