A great deal of time and commitment go into show day. The process starts many months before the show even arrives. The show circuit is a core part of many families and of the beef cattle industry. Investing in this enterprise can include a hefty amount of dollars as well. Although there are a variety of aspects that are essential in preparing for a winning look in the show ring, sound nutrition at home is where to begin.
Being crowned Grand Champion in the show ring starts on the farm and no matter how much of an investment is made in a show animal, nothing will replace a good feeding program.
Mike Jedlicka of J&S Cattle Service of Koshkonong, Mo., explained, “Match the ration to the animal.” He suggested a 14 percent protein and high fat ration. It is also important to keep the same feed routine for show animals. “They need consistency,” said Mike. “Feeding the same time, twice a day must be met.” He also recommended a day off the grain to let the animal reset, that way they don’t get tired of their ration and are ready for it the next day.
Furthermore, show cattle should have plenty of room to exercise, at least 10 hours a day, to ensure a healthy appetite and good muscle tone.
Cover the Nutrition Basics
1. Animal Sex and Class – bulls, steers and heifers all require different feed concentrations.
2. Breed – Different breeds, different nutrient intake.
3. Good Health – keep all vaccinations current, as animals will be exposed to a variety of other animals while at shows and you can only guarantee the health of your stock.
4. Environment Stress – handling and transportation will greatly increase the amount of stress imposed on an animal, but providing adequate minerals and vitamins will help to offset the stress level.
Commercial feed or specialty mix – that is the question. Many feed companies have high quality products that fulfill a sound nutrition program, but some producers choose to mix their own feeds.
Veteran show ringers suggest first timers to start with talking to a livestock nutritionist or their local feed store. “When a person is first learning, begin with talking to the people that are actually doing it and understand the nutrition ration,” suggested Mike. Starting with a commercial feed is less expensive and can help “newbies” get adjusted to good feeding basics.
A good grasp on the feedstuffs that compile show cattle rations is a good place to start for beginners. Below is a list to get started in understanding the common ingredients in a show cattle ration.
Minerals – critical in growth, immunity and development of an animal
Vitamins – typically A and E
Salt – provides two essential minerals in the diet and suggested feed level of .4 to .6 percent
Barley – high in energy, helps to condition cattle and is fed rolled, steam-flaked or crimped
Cottonseed Hulls – a great fiber source that is palatable for cattle
Feed Additives – a wide variety can be added to a feed for hair coat, digestion and growth
Oats – high in protein and good fiber source that aids cattle from experiencing bloat and founder and will provide growth without too much condition
Corn – high in energy, provides rapid growth and condition
Molasses – adds palatability to feed rations, as well as texture
Protein Supplements – such as cottonseed or soybean meal
Alfalfa Meal or Pellets – used as a source of protein and fiber
Developing a quality, consistent mix for show animals that incorporates a healthy balance of ingredients will play dividends come show day.