Summer creep feed
keeps em growing
• Farm size: 660ha (1630 acres) owned; 283ha (700 acres) rented keep. All grass.
• Stocking: 4300 Welsh mules; 75 pedigree Limousins and 475 Limousin and Simmental x Friesians; seven Belgian Blue and seven Limousin bulls.
SUMMER creep feeding of concentrates to autumn-born suckler calves has prevented checks in growth at weaning on one Shropshire beef and sheep unit.
Jesse Wood runs 550 mainly Limousin x Friesian sucklers at Kinnerton Farm, Rattlinghope. He calves 100 outdoors in the autumn, weaning calves in August.
He says that creep feeding these calves in summer secures a premium at the autumn store sales. Last year three-quarter Limousin steers sold as year-old stores averaged £700 a head at 385kg, Belgian Blue cross steers averaged £650 a head at 410kg, and Limousin heifers £590 a head at 350kg.
"Creep feeding works well with Continentals," says Mr Wood. "While the Herefords would get too fat, three-quarter Continentals respond well, and keep growing."
From housing in their first winter the calves are offered a 16% crude protein concentrate ad lib behind a creep gate in the straw yard. The feed costs £8/50kg bag from Preston-based AF Feeds.
At turnout the same ad lib feed is offered in outdoor creep feeders with lids. The calves eat little in May and June but start to eat more in July when there is less grass and the cows give less milk.
Mr Wood uses one feeder for every 25 calves, so they all get a chance to take the creep. Every day before offering fresh feed he makes sure the troughs are clean and free from dust and stale cake.
Weaning is usually in August, but in a dry summer when there is no grass for the calves it is delayed until early September.
At weaning, calves are eating about 3.6kg (8lbs) of the ad lib fed pellets. Mr Wood houses the weaned calves for a week to prevent them straying, during which time they are offered ad lib barley straw plus the concentrates.
When they go out to grass again the same level of concentrate feed is offered in troughs. However, this year they will also be offered straw because there is little grass. "Its too early to start feeding silage which I would rather save for the suckler cows in the winter," he says.
The main herd calves indoors in the January to April period. Spring born calves are creep fed after turnout to grass and grow quickly to be sold off the cow as six to 10-month-old stores in autumn.
saving on winter housing.
Jesse Wood – Creep feeding calves in summer secures premium.