24 July 1998

Make suckled calf decisions and act

DECIDE whether you are going to finish, store or sell suckled calves and introduce creep feed accordingly.

Lincs-based Signet consultant Richard Elliott says that spring-born calves should be introduced to creep feeding now where appropriate. "Grass quality and suckler milk yields are starting to decline, so creep will help ensure calves continue to grow.

"Where bull calves are being kept entire and finished in winter, its vital to keep them growing on when they are young so that they finish as soon as possible. Split them and their dams from heifer calves and introduce creep, which they will take almost ad-lib by weaning, meaning they are less likely to suffer a growth check."

Heifer and steer finishers may be reluctant to spend money on creep, but Mr Elliott says that it is money well spent. "Creep feeding will help keep growth going, otherwise you may be faced with disappointing weights at weaning.

"Keeping animals going when they have the greatest potential for growth is more efficient, as well as reducing the time you have to feed them over-winter when cattle are larger and so a greater proportion of feed is needed to meet maintenance requirements."

Suckled calf producers choosing not to feed creep may also find that calves have less bloom and condition at weaning, and are therefore more difficult to sell at good prices.

But where cattle are to be stored over-winter, Mr Elliott says introducing creep can be delayed until a couple of weeks before weaning.