by Jim White, MFA Director of Feed Nutrition.
The beef industry is shifting from commodity to value-added. In short, value-added marketing is taking a commodity and creating additional value through management practices, and then marketing that commodity in such a way as to be paid for the additional value created. Even if beef producers take steps to create added value through preconditioning practices, it means nothing if those animals aren’t marketed to capture that additional value. MFA’s Health Track, a Vac-45 nutrition and age-and-source verification program, is one way producers can realize this added value.
In preconditioning programs such as Health Track, a common question is how to prepare calves for where they are going after they leave their dam. One of the easiest-to-implement practices is to offer creep feed. Creep feeding teaches calves to eat and prepares them for weaning. As calves get bigger and less dependent on milk from mom, it is important that they do not over-eat creep. The conventional wisdom is that creep should supplement the forage, not replace it.
If forage is unavailable, weaning the calves and putting them in a dry lot tends to be preferred. MFA Cadence can be used as a limiter feed if ad lib consumption is excessive. The objective is to use creep feed to supplement the energy intake of rapidly growing calves and support the additional growth.
There are several ways creep feeding adds value to calves. Creep feeding increases weaning weight, meaning producers will have more pounds of calf to sell. Potentially, the cost of those extra pounds can vary a lot. Using more efficient creep feeds such as MFA Cattle Charge or Full Throttle will give better feed to gain than will creep feeding commodities.
Feeding creep also reduces the variability of weaning weights. Every year, and even within the year, forage quantity and quality can vary substantially. If forage availability is restricted early in the year, dam milk production might be reduced. Offering creep feed will help smaller calves. For older calves, creep feed can provide additional energy and protein when cool-season grass pasture quality is declining and when calves are more dependent on forage to support their weight gain.
Creep-fed calves eat feed better and will more quickly recover their weight lost in weaning and shipping. They have significantly better average daily gain the first 28 days post weaning than non-creep-fed calves. The increased calf weight has a significant effect on profitability.
Visit with the livestock specialists at your local MFA for more information.
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