Creep Feeding Kid Goats
Dr. Rick Machen
Associate Professor & Extension Livestock Specialist
Texas Agricultural Extension Service, Uvalde
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.
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 strongKids 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.
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.
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
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.