Creep feeding can help calves gain weight, especially when forage supplies are short. Research also has indicated a high-energy diet early in a calf’s life can improve its ability to deposit marbling and produce a valuable carcass at slaughter, suggesting potential benefi ts for producers who retain ownership of calves through feeding. To evaluate the lifetime effects of creep feeding, researchers from the University of Arkansas and USDA conducted trials in three different environments:
• Spring-calving Angus cows and calves on bermudagrass pastures.
• Fall-calving Brahman-cross cows with Angus-sired calves on ryegrass pastures.
• Fall-calving Red Angus cows and calves on native range.
Creep intake was targeted at 1 percent of bodyweight as-fed, beginning 90 days before weaning. The researchers used two creep-feed rations, one based on corn and the other based on soy hulls. Creep feeding increased preweaning average daily gains for the bermudagrass and native-range groups, but not the ryegrass group. Energy source did not affect average daily gains during backgrounding in the bermudagrass or ryegrass environments. Creep-fed calves on bermudagrass and native range entered the feedlot at heavier weights than those not offered creep feed. Creep feeding, source of creep feed and backgrounding energy source did not affect USDA quality grade or marbling scores in these trials. The researchers concluded that creep feeding improved daily gains of calves in environments of lower forage quality such as bermudagrass and native range.