Creep grazing is a pasture management practice used to increase the weight of suckling calves in a cow-calf operation.

A UF/IFAS Extension publication on creep grazing maintains that “Selling additional pounds of calf is a desirable objective in any beef cattle enterprise.” Utilizing creep grazing is one way to achieve this. See the details of the process from the publication below.

Creep Grazing Defined

According to the publication, creep grazing is “the use of high-quality forage that only calves have access to while grazing with their mothers during the time before weaning.” The piece maintains that nursing calves that graze in this manner can gain 30 to 50 pounds over calves that do not.

Operators fence “off a small part of the herd pasture and planting it with high quality forage,” and create access that only calves can go through. The publication adds that “One acre will usually be sufficient for 6 calves.”


The publication shared the following details for each component:

Calves: “To obtain the best gains the creep pasture should be available for limited grazing when the oldest calves in the herd are 3 to 4 months old. Once creep grazing is started, it should be continued until the calves are weaned. Creep grazing can be provided for both spring calves as well as fall calves. Fall calves would graze cool-season forages, and spring calves would graze warm-season forages.”

Cows: Though cows are kept from grazing the high-quality forage, “their reproduction is likely to improve because of less lactation demand by the calves. Another benefit for cows is a decrease in loss of weight and body condition during lactation, which shortens the calving interval.”

Forages: “Legumes or grasses can be used in creep pastures. Producers should select adapted forages that are known to be high in digestibility and protein. Several warm-season legumes that may fit into creep grazing programs are Aeschynomene americana, adapted to poorly drained soils, as well as perennial peanut and cowpea, both adapted to well-drained soils. Aeschynomene has given good results in Florida research studies (Table 1). Results also show that cowpea creep provided adequate daily gains for the calf and improved the status (body condition score) of the lactating cow (Table 2).

Other forages that could be used in the warm season are alyceclover, hairy indigo, Savanna stylo, and pearl millet. The warm-season annual legumes are usually ready for grazing 6 to 8 weeks after planting and continue to grow into September. An early spring planting of pearl millet will provide forage from spring into the fall. Thus, pearl millet could be used to start or finish a creep grazing program where most of the creep pasture is planted to a legume.

If fall calves are 3 to 4 months old in January or February, then the cool-season annual grasses (ryegrass, small grains), as well as alfalfa, white clover, and other adapted cool-season legumes (crimson, red, and arrowleaf clover), can be used in creep pastures.”

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