Ask the Expert Beef > Setting Up the Starter Pen

Setting Up the Starter Pen

Sep 15, 2021

Starting cattle can be challenging. Weaning, new location, new pen mates, new diet, and much more factors into a stressful situation for receiving cattle. Fortunately there are several ways we can help cattle transition into the feed yard smoothly to set cattle up to perform over the long run!

Water sources

Keeping cattle hydrated is important upon receiving. Offering two waterer sources can be beneficial. A water tank offered alongside an automatic waterer will give cattle more opportunities to drink as well as a choice that may be more familiar to calves.

Feed bunk placement

Cattle tend to pace or circle fence lines when first arriving at a new location. Placing feed bunks on the perimeter of the pen, perpendicular to fences if possible will increase the number of times cattle meet bunks compared to bunks in the middle of a pen. The more a calf sees the bunk, the more likely it is to take a bite of feed.

Bunk space

Timid cattle are typically pushed out of crowded bunks. As a rule of thumb, 18 to 24 inches of bunk space per calf should be adequate to allow all calves access feed without overcrowding.

Feed good quality long stem hay

Roughage is a key part of a calf’s diet and helps promote healthy a rumen. Hay will also be a familiar feed for new calves entering the yard.

Provide a quality starter feed

Quality nutrition is important in the receiving period. Providing a palatable starter feed that is packed with the protein, energy, vitamins, minerals, and immune system support cattle need will help cattle handle stress more efficiently. Countryside Feed has several quality starter feed options in our Purina, Quick Start, and Beef Builder feed lines!

Offer Purina Stress Tubs

Cattle do not benefit from what they do not eat. Placing a Purina Stress Tub at the back of receiving pens, ensures cattle always have access to the nutrition they need. Timid and sick cattle typically struggle to eat enough at the bunk, tubs are a great way to offer similar benefits as a quality starter feed to these cattle.

For more tips on getting cattle off to a great start, contact your Countryside Feed representative!


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