The decision whether to utilize creep feed is one that livestock producers should reevaluate each year, says Heather Larson, SDSU Extension Cow/Calf Field Specialist.
"There is not a set of guidelines that say to use or not to use creep feed, in fact, most of the time it is a decisions that should be left up to producer’s preference," Larson said. "When producers ask for advice, I suggest they ask themselves a few questions."
The first question says a producer needs to ask is, will it actually pay to creep feed?

"Sometimes the markets just do not pay for added weight. Projecting the markets is always a guess," Larson said.
To determine if creep feeding pays, Larson says a producer needs to determine the cost on return.
She shares an example: Let’s say you are getting a feed conversion of 5:1(it could be 7:1), creep is costing you $.14/ lb. ($279/ton) and they are consuming 5 pounds a day. For that one pound of gain a day it will cost you $.70 ($.98 on a 7:1). After 90 days and 90 additional pounds you have a cost of $63 for that gain ($88.20 for 7:1). Now let’s say that put you in the 6 weights and not the 5 weights. This could be a $.06-$.08 difference in the market or it could be about the same. We are going to say it was a $.07 hit and the market for the 530 pound calf is $178/cwt. and the 6 weights are $171/cwt. The 530 pound calf would bring $943.40 and the 620 pound calf would bring $1060.20. This is a difference of $116.80. Once you take the cost of the creep feed and subtract it from the value added gain you would have a net gain of $53.80 per calf (and a gain of $28.60 on the 7:1 conversion.)
"Note the difference in a 2-pound conversion. It is important that the creep feed is kept in check. Sometimes you may have to switch formulas to control intake later in the season," she said.

These are potential numbers used and may change at any time.

To learn more about this topic and to listen to an iGrow Radio Network interview with Larson, visit