Timing will depend on calf age, growth potential of calves and grass availability. Normally creep feeding would start 6-10 weeks prior to weaning but bulls to be finished on ad-lib cereal diets should start being creep fed earlier, around 12 weeks before weaning. With very milky cows or in situations where it is tricky to creep feed starting 4-6 weeks before weaning will still help minimise weaning check. As a rough guide, allow 100-150kg of creep feed per calf for a 6-12 week creep feeding period.
If suckler cows are in poorer condition than normal creep feeding will improve calf performance and take pressure of the mothers. If grass supplies are limited then creep feeding will also improve calf performance.
Some farmers have success with creep grazing with electric fencing using some tall posts every now and then so calves can creep graze ahead of the cows. Creep gates can also be used into adjacent fields as well so calves get access to better grazing. This is quite simple and can be used to gradually wean calves. However, as with any creep system there needs to be a size differential between cows and calves for access.
Karen Stewart, email@example.com
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