Articles on forages, animals, and grazing systems
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Extension Forage Specialist
University of Kentucky
Phone: (859) 257-3358
Fax: (859) 323-1952
This month’s animal management tip is creep grazing. Creep grazing provides calves an opportunity to graze separate pastures or different areas within the same field away from the cows. The goal of creep grazing is to provide calves access to higher quality forage. About the time that calves reach three to four months of age, they become increasingly more dependent on non-milk feed sources. The nutritional need of the growing calf may be met by forages or other feedstuffs. Creep grazing provides high quality forage during this time when forage from hay or the main pasture area becomes limiting or the quality has declined. Advantages of creep grazing include increased weaning weights, less labor than feeding grain, lower cost than feeding grain, and increased forage available to the cows in the main pasture area.
In many creep grazing systems, calves are allowed access to separate pastures using gates with openings large enough for calves to get through but too narrow for cows. Another method is to set up an electric fence high enough for calves to pass underneath (36 to 42 inches) while still deterring cows. Since calves may be reluctant to wander too far from the herd, locating creep areas near shade, water, or mineral feeders will allow for greater access. Once a creep grazing system is implemented, it is usually helpful to allow both the cow and calf into the area for a short period of time, and then prevent access of the cow herd after the acclimation period. Natural curiosity and high quality forage will keep the calves coming back. In Kentucky, using rotational grazing practices, than average creep-grazed pasture can support 5 to 10 calves per acre.