Naturally, creep feeding has become a standard practice for many producers to help fill this nutrient gap prior to weaning. However, some of the basic considerations for utilizing creep feed are often overlooked.

Lundy erika
Extension and Outreach Beef Specialist / Iowa State University

Consider other feed resources. While quite variable, research data from calves consuming creep feed tends to range from as low as 4 pounds of feed to add an extra pound of bodyweight to as high as 18 pounds. Controlling calf intake is the key to reducing feed conversion when creep feeding calves. The quality and quantity of forage available and type of creep fed are important things to consider.

If a calf already has sufficient access to a high-quality forage source, supplementing with creep feed will likely increase a calf’s feed conversion and cost of gain. However, if pasture productivity is low due to past weather conditions, overgrazing or the “summer slump” of cool-season grass species, providing creep feed can lead to a more efficient feed conversion and a more desirable cost of gain. In addition, creep feeding calves tends to decrease calf forage intake.

Creep feeding also tends to be more beneficial for calves born to first- or second-calf heifers or thin cows compared to a mature cow in good condition. Research has shown that creep feeding can alleviate lactation pressure and, therefore, dams are more likely to have greater body condition score at weaning. Additional benefits of creep feeding include an easier transition to higher-grain-based diets post-weaning as well as improved carcass characteristics, specifically marbling, at harvest.

It’s important to do your homework to ensure you’re providing a quality creep feed to meet the goals of your operation and match your environment. Some creep feeds include limiters such as salt or fat to help control calf intake to improve feed conversion without putting excess flesh on calves.


Considering all these factors, producers may determine that some pastures will benefit from creep feeding while others may not. Ultimately, the profitability of creep feeding is dependent on the cost of the creep feed itself, conversion of the feed into additional pounds and feeder calf value. end mark

Erika Lundy
  • Erika Lundy

  • Extension Beef Program Specialist
  • Iowa Beef Center - Iowa State University
  • Email Erika Lundy