Show Cattle Feed: Top Tips From the Experts

Animal : Cattle

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Purina Animal Nutrition

Show cattle feed selection and management is a key component of bringing home the champion banner. Which feed you choose depends on your individual cattle’s traits such as frame, rib shape, growth rate and condition.  

In the show industry, it can be easy to go too fast or slow while aiming for a target weight goal. Depending on your animal, an effective feeding program helps hit the gas, pump the brakes or go on cruise control.

Since no two show cattle are the same, their feeding programs shouldn’t be the same either. Understanding your animal on an individual-basis will produce feeding programs to fit each of their needs. Look at the animal’s characteristics, such as breed, pedigree and body condition. Is your calf long and growthy? Or shorter and thicker?

In this discussion, Honor® Show Ambassadors Kirk Stierwalt and Bob May weigh in on frequently asked questions about show cattle feed:

Q: What can I feed to help with condition and rib shape?

Stierwalt: When putting condition on cattle, maintaining rib shape or adding belly, we use Honor® Show Full Range® complete feed. It’s a versatile feed you can give until the show. We also like Full Range® feed because it works well with High Octane® Power Fuel® supplement to help with condition and rib shape. The combination becomes a high-fiber, high-energy and high-fat diet.

Q: What feed should I use if I want more growth for my show cattle?

Stierwalt: Short or stocky cattle require a high-protein ration, versus a high-energy ration. Honor® Show Fitter’s Edge® feed is a growing and developing ration for both steers and heifers, but it also can be fed until show day for moderate- and shorter-framed steers. Since it’s 14 percent protein, it works well for short and stocky cattle if they need to keep growing.

May: Judges tend to like big, deep-bellied cattle right now. That’s something you can achieve later in the feeding program. Focus your long-term feeding efforts on animal growth and maturity. Then, a short-term goal of a big, deep belly can be accomplished with High Octane® Ultra Full® and High Octane® Depth Charge® supplements. These supplements can make a difference within 30-60 days.

Q: What show cattle feed should I use to add fat cover?

May: If your animal is too skinny, feed Honor® Show Finishing Touch® feed. It works quickly to help put fat and condition on cattle. This feed also makes it simple – the high-fat ration you need is all in the bag.

Q: How do I effectively slow or maintain show cattle growth?

Stierwalt: Honor® Show Full Control® feed is what I would call a “cruise control feed.” Once steers or heifers are in the right condition and you want to maintain the condition, Honor® Show Full Control®  feed will help keep them looking fresh and not over-conditioned. If you only want to slow the growth of your animal, you can also blend it with Honor® Show Fitter’s Edge® or Honor® Show Full Range® feed.

May: Honor® Show Full Control® feed is our go-to for heifers. It can be a struggle to keep heifers lean enough. This feed helps us find the balance between fat and condition.

Q: How can I monitor show cattle and feed performance?

Stierwalt: I recommend taking a picture of your cattle every two to four weeks. When you see them every day, you might not see change as much as you would when comparing photographs. It’s important to do the math on your cattle and their feed intake. We weigh cattle frequently and the feed at every feeding, Then, we compare their progress against how many days are left to our target show. If you have multiple family members feeding, this creates consistency if it’s calculated precisely.

May: Keep daily or weekly logs of weight and monitor and adjust as needed. Are your cattle maintaining gain? Was there a sudden drop in gain? Is the steer or heifer not performing well? Is he or she not eating well? Depending on results, you may need to switch to another approach with feed, move the steer or heifer to another feeding group or even feed individually. 

Use this show cattle feeding chart to determine the right feed for your project:

Cattle feed When to use Feeding rate (per day)
Honor® Show Full Range®
  • High in energy (calories) for growth and condition
  • High fiber
2.5 percent of body weight
Honor® Show Finishing Touch®
  • High energy helps optimize daily gain and finish
  • Balanced feed that works well as a standalone ration
2.5 percent of body weight
Honor® Show Fitter’s Edge®
  • High protein feed for growing and developing steers and heifers
2.5 percent of body weight
Honor® Show Full Control®
  • High fiber, low energy feed
  • Helps maintain condition and keep cattle fresh
2 percent of body weight for heifers and heavily muscled steers; 10-12 pounds per day for slowing weight gain
Honor® Show Grand 4-T-Fyer®
  • Concentrate that can be mixed with corn, oats, barley and beet pulp
  • Offers ration flexibility
Find ration mixing tips.
For more show cattle resources, visit our Show Hub.