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Brown beef calf in a field with long grass

Starting calves on feed using Payback Head Start

By Lance Kennington, Ph.D., animal nutritionist, CHS

September 20, 2023

Head Start is the ultimate calf starter feed that contains crucial protein, energy, trace minerals and vitamins to help calves transition to solid feed.

Reduce stress while weaning calves

Weaning and starting cattle on feed can be the most stressful time of the year, not only for the calves but for the producers as well. When starting cattle on feed, it is critical to provide a good transition for the young calf.

A calf that becomes sick at weaning will have a hard time making any money. We need to work hard to reduce stress caused by separation from mother, prolonged vocalization, lack of feed and water recognition, and adverse weather conditions. Provide the calf with a pen that is clean, comfortable, and dry, but not dusty, with enough pen space (150 square feet minimum) and bunk space (18-24 feet). Also, make sure cattle have access to a good, clean water supply. When feeding at weaning time, the object is to get the intake increased as rapidly, but as safely, as possible.

Calves at food bunk

What to feed weaning calves

Starting feeds should have an increased nutrient concentration to make up for lower feed intake. We want to get as many nutrients in the calves as we can with each bite they take at the bunk. In a trial at Montana State, researchers found that animals who spend more time at the bunk were less likely to be sick. So getting cattle to go to the bunk is critical. Starting calves with Payback® Head Start will help get calves on feed and reduce stress. Head Start has a consistent formulation, highly digestible fiber sources, is highly palatable, and has shown to have excellent performance in university trials.

Increase average daily gain

Research at Oregon State University showed that cattle fed Head Start gained 84 lbs. more over a 21-day starting period than those who were left on the cows and fed hay. This resulted in a 4.7 lb. average daily gain for the calves on Head Start, with a 4.17 feed conversion. In on-farm trials conducted in Montana, Wyoming, and the Dakotas involving 1,164 head, Head Start has shown an average daily gain of 3.27 lbs. and a feed:gain ratio of 5.46.

Using Head Start is a profitable opportunity for anyone trying to keep newly weaned calves healthy and put weight on them at the same time. Find your local dealer.

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