H&S Feed and Country Store wants your show cattle to bring home the blue ribbon. Follow these tips on how to effectively utilize show cattle supplements.
“Show supplements are designed to help spike the nutrition being offered to an animal to enhance the expression of genetic traits in a 45- to a 90-day time period,” explains Dr. Kevin Burgoon, a technical nutritionist with Purina Animal Nutrition. That said, he emphasizes, “Show supplements are not a magic potion, they are part of a comprehensive nutrition program.”
“You must still meet the animal’s daily nutrient requirements says, Burgoon. “Then, adding show supplements with higher amounts of a specific nutrient, like energy or protein, can help get an animal looking their best for show day.”
Energy is key
When selecting a nutritional supplement for cattle it is important to look at the fat content, which provides the animal energy (calories). Burgoon says, “Energy is responsible for growth, muscle and skeletal development; every metabolic process has a caloric cost.”
Energy supplements can also be beneficial to speed up growth and finishing in scenarios where an animal would traditionally require longer days on feed, such as cattle that have been sick or off-feed or breeds that take longer to mature. For those animals who need an extra boost, Burgoon says energy supplements can start to be fed when cattle are 400 to 500 pounds.
In addition, feeding enough fiber in the diet is critical. Burgoon suggests free choice moderate quality grass hay, and emphasizes that “keeping the rumen right with sufficient roughage in the diet is critical.”
Allow enough time
Burgoon emphasizes that the inclusion of nutritional supplements in a feed ration requires time.
“When someone says a supplement didn’t work for their show animal, it’s usually because they didn’t feed the supplement for a long enough period of time for it to work. Timing is the biggest mistake I see people make when feeding nutritional supplements,” says Burgoon.
According to Burgoon, ideally, nutritional supplements should be fed 45 to 90 days prior to show day. Even products marketed as a “show day” supplement should be fed longer than a single day he adds. “Supplements continue to work the longer they are fed,” Burgoon adds.
Part of the bigger picture
As part of your comprehensive nutrition program, Burgoon suggests getting show calves – especially market steers – to their ideal finishing weight about 35 to 40 days prior to show day, and then transitioning to a lower energy, high fiber feed and, if needed, feeding a supplement that will help maintain condition and muscle shape until it’s showtime.
During the final 30 to 45 days before a market show, Burgoon also emphasizes the importance of feeding supplements and feeds that do not require a withdrawal period.
A final tip is to monitor how animals are eating and responding to their feed and supplements. Burgoon notes that adjustments to their diet may need to be made throughout the show season.
To monitor the performance of the show animals he works with, May says he weighs his show cattle every week to evaluate gain.
May also advises feeding cattle separately. He explains, “If you feed 20 pounds of feed to two steers, there is no guarantee they will each eat 10 pounds because some cattle are slow eaters and others are aggressive. I suggest feeding cattle separately, but putting the bunks side-by-side and separated by a fenceline so the cattle feel like they are eating with a buddy.”
Source: Purina Animal Nutrition