Faster horses said:I can understand some of what you are saying, BUT--
how do you know what your cow is doing for you if you creep feed for an extended period of time?
Seems to me that creep feed can cover up a cow that isn't producing well. I do not agree with you on the milk theory. Our calves gain over 3#/day on grass and you can see the milk on their face even late in the fall. I can tell you this with certainty: if the cow doesn't milk well, the calf doesn't do well. I don't think cows should be milk cows because that comes at great cost; but I do think cows need to milk adequately so that the genetic potential of the calf is realized.
Another thing you didn't touch on, is that calves don't have much of a rumen until they are older.
Now that said, I think in your situation where you are fall calving and keeping the calves on the cow during the Montana winter, you are wise in creep feeding. It is very hard, perhaps impossible, to meet the cows requirements when lactating during the Montana winters. That is why creep feeding could really be an asset at that time.
As for the rest of us who calve in the spring; it is my thought that creep feeding is not necessary unless the year warrants it. So far, we have never had to creep feed calves and we have seen some pretty dry conditions.