Does it make sense to creep feed weanlings prior to sale?

Cattle are at one of the most efficient stages of their lives prior to weaning, according to Martin Ryan, Technical Support Manager with Gain Feeds.

Ryan said that continental calves are capable of converting 4kg of meal into 1kg of live weight gain during this stage.

“When you feed the first two kilograms of feed to a weanling you will get about a 0.50kg of liveweight gain.

“If you contrast that with a two-year-old or a thirty-month-old steer it could be as high as 10-to-one,” he said.

Speaking at a recent Gain Feeds weaning information evening, Ryan said feed efficiency is at its highest when cattle are young and one of the worst scenarios he has seen is farmers feeding cows meal in a bid to increase milk production.

Once you get to about 200 days of age 75% of the intake of the calf should be coming from sources other than milk.

Instead, he said farmers should consider weaning these cows and offer the meal to the calves instead.

In terms of timing, he said that farmers should aim to introduce creep to their calves approximately eight-to-10 weeks prior to sale.

Farmers should aim to have their bull calves eating 2.5-3.0kg/day of meal, while heifers should be offered 2.0kg/day.

The Gain Feeds representative also that the cow type has a big impact on the subsequent performance of calves offered creep.

“If you look at a lot of the three quarter breed cows they might have the shapeliest calves but they will be quite short in milk

There calves are the ones that will give you the biggest response from concentrate input.

Ryan also said that the sex of the calf also plays an important role, as bull calves are capable of using meal better than heifers.

The best quality Belgian Blue bull calves which are suitable for the export market are capable of gaining 1kg of live weight meal for every 2kg of concentrate input, he said.

These calves will give the greatest return on concentrate input, he said, closely followed by autumn-born bull calves.

Ryan said there are two possible methods of feeding weanlings creep, these are through the use of a creep feeder or by rising a wire and allowing the calves graze and eat creep ahead of the cows.

He said that it is easier to wean the calves from the cows using the second option as the bond between the cow and the calf starts to break using this method and it is just a matter of shutting the calves of from their dams.