Creep feeding is a means of providing supplemental feed for nursing kids. It is an essential component of an accelerated kidding and/or early weaning management program. Advantages of creep feeding include:
1. It increases preweaning weight gain, especially for kids reared as a twin or triplet. In
the competitive marketing environment for marketing show wethers, some degree of creep
feeding is almost an essential.
2. The conversion of creep feed to body weight gain is a very efficient process. Creep fed
kids will have a greater weight per day of age.
3. Kids will reach a target market weight and can be marketed at a younger age. For
spring-born kids, avoiding the heat of the summer and large market runs may have a
positive effect on net profit.
4. Creep feeding reduces the stress associated with weaning. Potential breeding animals
and show wether prospects make the transition from milk to a dry diet much smoother if
creep fed prior to weaning.
Other factors to consider include:
1. Kids that are creep fed seldom forget what a creep feeder is. If those kids are kept as
breeding animals, they sometimes can be a challenge to keep out of a creep feeder.
2. Producers must be conscious of cost of gain. Relatively inexpensive feed and a strong
Kids begin to nibble at feed and hay very early. Personal experience indicates that some
kids may have a functional rumen and be chewing their cud by two weeks of age. Therefore, if
maximum growth is expected, creep should be available by the time kids are 3-5 weeks old.
Creep consumption will be minimal until kids are 8-10 weeks of age.
goat market equate to a positive return on the creep feed dollars invested. Feed
conversions should be in the 5:1 or less range (1 lb gain per 5 lb feed consumed).
3. Be aware of market conditions and weaning weights. In Texas, kids weighing in excess
of 80 lb are discriminated (price) against by slaughter goat buyers.
4. Creep feeding does not facilitate increased stocking rates. Providing creep to nursing
kids has minimal effect on the nutrient requirements or forage intake of lactating does.
The idea is to allow nursing kids access to feed while precluding access
to does and older animals. Most creep feeders are constructed by placing a gravity flow, self feeder
in a pen or by building a pen around a feeder in the pasture.
Either way, the challenge is to
design a gate or entrance through which kids can pass, yet will deny entry by older goats.
The schematic included herein is a simple design that works well.
Spacing between the
vertical bars needs to be 5", no more or less.
The horizontal bar (A) is adjustable so the height of
the opening through which kids pass (B) can be raised as kids get older. Total height of the gate
(C) should be at least 48" or the same height as the creep feeding pen, whichever is taller.
The most durable and long lasting creep gates are constructed out of metal, preferably 1 or
1¼ inch square tubing and ½ or ¾ inch round rod or reinforcement steel.
Gates constructed with
lumber will suffice, but have a shorter life expectancy. Heavy welded wire panel (4 ga., 4" x 4"
openings, 48" tall; usually sold in pieces 20'long) can also be used. Simply clip out the second,
third and fourth (from the bottom) horizontal pieces between two adjacent vertical rods on the
panel. (Editor's note: The cut will have sharp edges. Be sure to file the cut ends even with the vertical rods or leave the remaining horizontal pieces on each side long enough to fold back)
The fence or pen in which the creep feeder is located must be more durable than a typical
pasture or field fence. Older goats will exert significant effort to gain access to creep feed.
Polled or disbudded mature goats are more difficult to occlude than horned goats. Mature goats
with horns are forever getting their head stuck during a failed attempt to enter a creep feeder.
Creep feeders should be located near water, shade or other places where goats loaf during
the day. Kid goats enjoy climbing. Placing stumps, cable spools or large rocks in larger creep
pens or near the creep feeder may provide an additional attraction.
The continuous presence of dry, fresh feed
is important. Never let a creep
feeder get completely empty. Clean
out fine particles that accumulate in
the troughs at least once per week.
Allowing creep fed kids to go without
feed for 24 hours then suddenly
reintroducing feed can set the stage
for enterotoxemia (overeating
Feeders should be protected from moisture (rain, sleet or snow) and typically hold 100 -
1000 lb of feed. Wet feed will likely mold and should therefore be removed from a creep feeder
immediately. Gravity flow self feeders work very well. Use caution in the design of the trough
wherein the feed is presented. Deep troughs or those with sloping bottoms can trap kids and result
Open troughs will suffice, but must be cleaned and filled frequently (at least once a day).
However, kids will get in the troughs, urinate and defecate. The end result is wasted feed.
Feed Grazing. Creep fed does not necessarily have to be offered in a feeder or poured
out of a sack.
Creep grazing is a viable option for boosting weight gain by nursing kids. Creep
grazing requires a high quality forage such as alfalfa, soybeans, peanuts, clovers, kudzu(?),
immature sorghum sudangrass or millet. This list is certainly not all inclusive, especially for
producers who live north or east of Texas. Forages offered in a creep grazing program must be
high quality. Initially, it may be necessary to allow both does and kids to graze the creep forage,
using the does to lead the kids into the creep grazed pasture.
Dry Feed. The Great Debate - Which one of the
many products offered is best and most appropriate for my
Hopefully, the list of minimum specifications
included here will help you determine which feed is the
best fit for your operation. Please understand, these are
meant to be minimums.
The feed must be fresh and palatable to kid goats.
If they won't eat it, the nutrient content is irrelevant. Select
a feed that is readily available, kept in fresh inventory and
is consistent from bag to bag. Dust and/or excessive fine
particles in the feed will reduce intake, aggravate the upper
respiratory tract and only result in wastage.
Meat Goat Creep Feed
fresh and palatable
minimal dust/fine particles
pelleted (<¼ inch diameter)
crude protein >14% (no urea)
Ca:P ratio >2:1
P content 0.38-0.45%
urinary acidifier (0.5%)
Pelleted feeds maintain the integrity of the ration
and prevent goats from sorting ingredients. Goats are like children at a salad bar - they eat the
desserts first and leave the lettuce, cole slaw, broccoli and cauliflower for someone else. Whole,
rolled, flaked or cracked grains are dessert to a goat. Granular minerals and other fine particles in
a ration will often be sorted out and left for disposal. This author prefers either a 3/16 or 5/32
inch pellet diameter.
Crude protein (CP) content should be a minimum of 14% and should be all natural (no
urea). The urinary acidifier, either ammonium chloride or ammonium sulfate, will inherently
contribute a minimal amount of non-protein nitrogen. Most commercially prepared goat creep
feeds contain 15-18% crude protein. Certainly, there is little or no merit for creep feed CP levels
A calcium (Ca) to phosphorus (P) ratio of at least 2:1, a P content less than 0.50% and the
urinary acidifier are recommended in an effort to prevent urinary calculi, primarily in buck kids
and wethers. Two urinary acidifiers are commonly used: ammonium chloride and ammonium
sulfate. Both are salts. The sulfate form is less expensive. The chloride form seems to be the
industry preference. If the feed is not pelleted, these ingredients will sift out and often be refused.
Minimum recommended level of either acidifier is 0.50%. Levels of 0.75 to 1.0% have been fed
to populations of goats known to be high risk for urinary calculi.
Coccidiosis. Creep feeds should contain a coccidiostat for the prevention of coccidiosis.
This malady is much easier prevented that cured. Two products are labeled for use in goat feeds:
decoquinate (Deccox®) or monensin (Rumensin®). These are considered medications. If
included, their presence must be documented on the label attached to each bag of commercially
prepared feed. Either of these two products is required in very small amounts on a daily basis. Be
aware that diluting the coccidiostat concentration in the kid's diet by adding corn or other
feedstuffs to the creep feed will lessen the product's efficacy.
Enterotoxemia (Overeating disease). Clostridial organisms (Clostridium perfringens type
C & D) reside in the digestive system of goats. Under normal conditions, these potential pathogens
do not cause harm. However, stress (environmental, physiological or psychological) can open the
window of opportunity, the population explodes, releases a toxin that is usually fatal to the host.
Seldom does the herder get an opportunity to treat enterotoxemia and it typically strikes the largest,
fastest growing most aggressive eaters.
Vaccines for its prevention are available and, if possible, should be given at 14-17 days
before creep feed is provided. In very young kids, maternal antibodies may preclude development
of immunity. Read and follow the label - most enterotoxemia vaccines suggest at least one booster
14-21 days after the initial vaccination. Vaccines are like life insurance - if you wait until they are
needed, it is too late.
Economics. IF profitability is a concern, pay close attention to feed costs, weight gains
and the market value of the additional weight gained. As previously mentioned, if a primary
production goal is to produce high quality goats that will command a premium as show prospects
or registered breeding stock, creep feeding or grazing is almost a necessity.
In general. as commercial slaughter goats get heavier, their market value decreases on a
$/lb basis. Commercial meat goat producers need to sharpen their pencil, calculate the net return
without creep feed, feed, equipment and labor costs involved and compare it to the subsequent
market value of heavier, creep fed kid goats.