Creep feed no substitute for grass

Limited grass growth this spring is focusing sheep farmers’ minds and prompting many to question whether creep feeding could be worthwhile this year.

Suffolk-based producer Michael Mumford says poor grazing this year means many ewes are still being fed about 1kg a day when in a normal year most would rely solely on grass for most of their needs.

“We were feeding ewes silage and beet too until a few weeks ago, but as lambs have gained age we have been able to drop this off, although they are still on concentrates.

We’re just trying to keep ewes milking for as long as possible.”

Lambs from the 1400-ewe flock are being offered creep as usual and Mr Mumford says some late February-born lambs are already taking more than 0.5kg a day.

“However, lambs have suffered a check with the lack of grass and are likely to finish later this year unless grass growth picks up soon.”

Young lambs

But anyone with lambs less than one month old would be foolish to introduce creep feed in the belief it will boost lamb performance, says independent sheep consultant Lesley Stubbings.

“For lambs of this age you’re far better off feeding ewes to ensure they milk.

“As a guide to feed requirements where grass is less than 3cm tall ewes should be fed about 1kg/head, for grass between 3 and 4cm about 0.5kg should suffice and where it is longer than 4cm there should be little need to feed concentrates.”

While feeding lambs may be a more efficient way of using inputs, it will take lambs at least a couple of weeks to take creep feed in any substantial amount, by which time grass growth should have caught up.

“Offering creep is a long-term option.

Taking creep away once lambs are eating large amounts means they will suffer a check which will set them back even further.”

For farms feeding creep, Ms Stubbings says attention should be paid to the danger posed by coccidiosis as lambs congregating around feeders are likely to concentrate the level of infection.