By Laura Wight, Davidsons nutritionist

What a year 2020 has been and specifically for the beef industry with end prices at long last improving after a challenging couple of years.

It is now vital that livestock farms are as efficient as possible and on cattle farms that begins with calves.

While the beef price has been improving, input costs having been rising and margins have been getting tighter. Farmers therefore need to become systematic and cost clever to survive – which is where creep feeding comes in to maximise calf values.

Creep feeding provides one of the best returns on investment for any beef farmer as it can reduce the number of days on farm, as well as providing them the correct balance of nutrition at a young age, when most needed.

With the recent adverse dry weather conditions, and the lack of available grass, creeping calves has never been more important. At 120 days of age, more than 50% of the calf’s nutritional requirements are being met by feeds other than their mother’s milk e.g. grass, silage or concentrates.

Feed efficiency at this pre-weaning stage is at its highest compared to at any other stage of its life. On average, the feed conversion ratio will be 4:1 for example, 1kg creep fed would equate to 250g of daily live weight gain (dlwg). Therefore, creeping at a younger age is more cost effective.

There are several other benefits of creep feeding to include maximising dry matter intakes at a young age which allows the rumen to develop properly and ensures calves meet their genetic potential. Weaning weights can be increased by 35-60kg per head, as well as reducing weaning stress and pneumonia at housing as the calves are already used to a concentrate which in turn minimises growth checks.

One high specification creep is Davidsons Excel with a 13.2 MJ/kg DM and 18% protein, it is a three starch formulation of maize, wheat and barley to achieve optimum rumen balance, where maize is one of the top ingredients which provides bypass starch.

It also has a blend of high-quality protein sources where the main source is soya providing high levels of DUP, this ensures maximum growth of the stocks frame.

Bypass starch and protein in the diet are essential for better rumen efficiency ensuring the animal makes best use of the concentrate provided. When selecting the correct concentrate for creep feeding, £20-£30 per tonne often sounds a big difference but as discussed below a small increase in dlwg, can lead to huge profit over the course of time. Therefore, it is crucial to check raw materials and crude protein of the diet – nutrition is key to improving efficiency on livestock farms, and having the correct minerals is vital.

Increasing the quality and energy of a calf creep is shown to further promote efficiency through improved rumen function and feed to gain ratio.

The table below demonstrates this and shows that by increasing the specification of the cake can increase dlwg more than 0.4 kg, over a period of 180 days which can be equivalent to an extra 72kg of lwg. Taking the current market prices, an extra 72kg can result in an additional £158.40 per calf. From the extra value at market if we subtract the extra cost of feeding the higher energy cake (£36.00 over 180 days), it would mean almost £122.40 in profit. Multiplying this by 100 calves sold off the unit, it can result in outstanding profits of almost £12,240. These figures show the importance of a high quality concentrate in meeting margins, as well as the calves on farm for fewer days, which will also save on additional costs.

You might think calf creep is an extra cost, but in the long run it will benefit your profit margins.

Table 1. Financial impact of increased ME in the ration increasing daily live weight gain.

Formulation Spec Protein DLWG Cost of Product Cost of Product (£/kg) Extra Cost (Compared to control) Extra Cost Over 180 days fed Extra LWG over 180 days fed Value of extra gain per calf

@ £2.20 per kg Overall Profit Gain


16 1.00 £230 £0.232 0 (Control) 0 (Control) 0 (Control) 0 (Control) 0 (Control)


16 1.2 £240 £0.240 0.10 p £18.00 36 kg £79.20 £61.20


16 1.4 £250 £0.250 0.20 p £36.00 72 kg £158.40 £122.40