Whether you just started with show cattle or have been showing for years, you know how important it is to have a nutrition program that will help make your animals look their best.
You want an animal to look great throughout the year, but even more important, is being at their best at a future date – show day. Regardless of how many show dates you’re targeting, your animal’s nutrition program needs to be developed with the end goal in mind.
Think about the results wanted, what does the steer weigh currently? What do we want him to weigh on show day? With heifers it’s not much different, but you may have multiple target dates to keep in mind.
A multi-step approach for developing a nutrition program is recommended:
1. Determine current cattle nutrition
Whether your animal is purchased or home raised, you need to know exactly what feed they’ve been getting and how much they were getting to smoothly transition those cattle to a more individualized show nutrition program.
If cattle haven’t been on much feed, or if they’re newly weaned, you can transition them to a sound starter program for 21-28 days, prior to starting them on their show feed program.
2. Build a balanced program
Not every animal is going to have the same program. For example, a steer in good condition, on the heavier side, might need 2 pounds of gain per day. But, a smaller, lighter steer might need a program with higher energy to gain 3 pounds per day.
No matter the animal, your show nutrition program should include a balanced feed with adequate amounts of protein, energy, and fiber or roughage. It’s also key to make sure that the animal has an adequate amount of mineral and vitamin supplementation, and that nutrients are from quality sources.
3. Consider palatability, water intake
The cattle need to be able to keep on feed consistently whether that’s at home or at the show. You can have the best feeding program in the world, but if your animals won’t eat it, it’s not doing you any good, palatability is a must have in a nutrition program.
Also you can’t underestimate the importance of water. Water drives intake, so we need to make sure calves have access to clean, fresh water.
4. Monitor appearance on a regular basis
While a feeding program can be developed on paper, it is of critical importance to monitor the appearance of your animal on a regular basis.
Condition and weight should be monitored at least monthly when you’re more than 3 months away from the show, and as your show date approaches monitor appearance and weights on a bi-weekly or weekly basis. Know how much your animals are actually gaining, so you can adjust their feed program accordingly.
It takes approximately 45-60 days for nutrition to make a true change in appearance on an animal. If you’re trying to make a change in less than 30 days, it will be a struggle.
I encourage cattle exhibitors to evaluate their show nutrition program regularly, especially if they’re not seeing the results they want in the show ring. While creating or re-evaluating a program can be intimidating, the potential end results in the show ring may be well worth your while.
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