Calf Prices and Creep Feeding
It is that time of year again with newborn calves running around and new pastures awaiting them. The question comes up “Is it worth the extra time and money to creep feed calves?”.
Well this year it might seem like a no brainer! I was looking at the calf insurance prices a bit ago and noticed we could lock in calves for $3.22/lb! I don’t think I have seen prices that high before!!
So I started doing some math - please follow along and see if this makes sense……
When I was at the Bull Congress show in Camrose, Alberta earlier this year I ran into Duane White who had purchased a few of our M8000HD Advantage Feeders back in 2018 to help get his cows through a tough winter. Last spring he used them for creep feeding and mentioned the difference in rate of gain he noticed in his black angus calves that had been fed grain for the first 4-6 weeks of their life. When sorting them he guessed that those calves were 30-40lbs heavier than the rest. Although he noted additional benefits to creep feeding longer, he attributed these results to their early start on grain.
I spend a lot of time at trade shows chatting with cattle producers about how getting grain into calves early can help them develop their rumen more quickly and utilize pasture more efficiently. It was so great to hear a customer experience in real life that exact concept.
OK….. back to my math. If we went with the average of 35 lbs x $3.22/lb that would be a gross profit of $112.70 per calf. What excites me is that in the first 4-6 weeks calves don’t go through a lot of grain which makes it one of the most cost effective ways to get some extra gain on calves. We didn’t calculate the exact among of grain eaten or confirm exact weights so I admit to a bit of guesswork here. Let’s just estimate on the high side that the calf average intake of barley was 2lbs/day over 5 weeks and barley cost was $0.12./lb. That would be $8.40 of barley which would still leave a profit of over $100 per calf as a result of feeding grain for the first few weeks. If you had 75 calves on a feeder that is over $7,500 profit in your pocket! That would more then pay for a feeder in 5 weeks, without accounting for any additional benefits from use throughout the summer/fall.
So on our Alberta farm we are being intentional about getting our calves started on grain. Here are some tips that we have found to help us with that.
- Make sure the creep feeder stays in an area where the cattle hang around. It helps when the cows are in a smaller pen. We are still feeding the cows some so we try and feed them close to the Advantage Feeders and keep the cows mineral nearby as well.
- Place palatable types of feed in the trough area. Sometimes we try a few different things at once like calf starter or diatemateous earth, barley, oats, etc. The main thing at the beginning is getting them enough of a reward at the feeder that they keep coming back.
- Feed the cows a bit of grain. With the Advantage Feeders we can limit feed cows down to as low as 4 lbs or so. We can lift up the creep panel on one side and close down the settings so the cows get a bit of grain as well - even just long enough to have some calves start building a habit of eating from the feeder on the other side with creep panel down.
A more developed rumen in calves can help them break down their pasture more efficiently throughout the summer. Getting calves started on grain early can be of exceptional benefits in cases where creep feeding throughout the summer is not practical.
There are, however, many other benefits to controlled creep feeding throughout the summer/fall with the Advantage Feeders: avoiding dockage at the auction, being able to feed hotter feeds such as barley, helping to extend pasture, taking pressure off cows, safely feeding replacements and of course getting more gain, Make sure to subscribe to our newsletters or check us out on social media for more information.
If you already own creep feeders I hope this email was helpful to you and enables you to get more profit from your calves. For more pictures and information on rumen development in calves go to https://www.teagasc.ie/media/website/publications/2017/Section4-Rumen-development.pdf.
If you are in the market for a creep feeder and the possibility of an extra $100+ profit per calf sounds real appealing contact Myrna or check out www.advantagefeeders.com for more information and pricing.