FAILING to creep feed suckled calves can substantially cut performance and profitability, claims KW nutritionist, Sean Roddy.

He reckons that finishing times can be extended by up to six weeks and significantly increased lifetime feed requirements, if the young calves are not properly supported.

"A calf might eat 160kg dry matter (DM) of creep feed to gain an extra 40kg liveweight pre-weaning, but the poorer feed conversion efficiency of older cattle means the same increase later on could require twice as much feed," he explains.

Calves not creep fed also suffer slower rumen development, experience greater growth checks at weaning and rely more heavily on their dam's milk, with knock-on effects for cow body condition and fertility. All are factors that reduce efficiency and increase costs.

"Creep feed ad lib from six weeks of age till weaning, then taper off as animals move onto their growing rations." Mr Roddy advises. "And make sure the ration optimises rumen development as well as growth.

"Balance home-grown cereals with additional protein and digestible fibre - British wheat distillers' feed alongside sugar beet feed or soya hulls is ideal - and include around 5% chopped straw to stimulate the rumen.

"A high sugar liquid feed like Rouxminate or Economol will increase palatability and intakes, whilst also reducing ration sorting and dust inhalation."