Does Creep Feeding Make Cents?

Aug 03, 2020

Tara Ellerman

As calves reach three to four months of age, roughly 50% of their nutritional needs are met by nursing. Lush green grass can help to fill in these nutritional gaps, but as summer wears on and grasses mature, pastures lose their ability to supply rapidly growing calves with the nutrients needed to reach their growth potential. Creep feeding is a tool used by cow calf producers to patch these gaps to give calves every opportunity to reach their potential.
Wheather or not to creep feed is a decision that needs to be made on each individual farm. Several factors can be taken into account, but ultimately all producers need to ask the question: does creep feeding pay?
Conversion rates of calves on creep feed typically range from 5:1 to 8:1 resulting in an estimated 60 pounds of additional body weight for calves on creep feed for 90 days prior to weaning in comaprison to their non-creep fed contemporaries. Managing creep feeders properly and limiting consumption to 1 – 1.5% of calves body weight are key to achieving the best conversion rates possible. Read 6 Tips for Successful Creep Feeding for more information on preper management of creep feeders.
Figuring return over feed cost is a great way to answer the question: is creep feeding worth it?
There are a few formulas that are good to know when figuring cost of gain:
  1. Cost of gain =  $ per pound of creep feed * conversion rate 
Below is a chart that calculates the cost of gain for different feed costs and conversion rates.
  $/Ton Creep Feed
Feed:Gain 190 200 210 220 230 240
5:1       0.48      0.50        0.53        0.55              0.58       0.60
6:1       0.57      0.60        0.63        0.66              0.69       0.72
7:1       0.67      0.70        0.74        0.77              0.81       0.84
8:1       0.76      0.80        0.84        0.88              0.92       0.96

  1. Creep feeding return = (Creep revenue per head - non-creep revenue per head) / added gain
  2. Income over feed cost = creep feeding return - cost of gain
For the following examples predicted prices for Kansas cattle on October 1 were obtained from 
  • 550# steer calves * $1.63/# = $896.50 return
490# steer calves * $1.76/# = $862.40 return
$896.50 - $862.40 = $34.10 added return from creep feeding
$34.10 added return / 60# added gain = $0.57 return / added pound of gain
  • 550# heifer calves * $1.46/# = $803.00 return
490# heifer calves * $1.57/# = $769.30 return
$803.00 - $769.30 = $33.70 added return from creep feeding
$33.70 added return / 60# added gain = $0.52 return / added pound of gain

Based on this example, producers can spend $0.57 or $0.52 per pound of added gain on creep feed to break even.

Increased weaning weights are just one of the many benefits of creep feeding calves. Many benefits of creep feeding are difficult to put a dollar value on, read Why Creep Feed? to learn more about pasture and calf health benefits.

Contact your Countryside Feed represenative to discuss if creep feeding is right for your cow calf operation!

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