October 2016
Feeding Facts

It’s Fair Time

This time of year, every year, people start to second guess whether or not they are feeding their show cattle correctly. They have exhibited in several shows this summer and the cattle haven’t performed up to their expectations. As they start evaluating their program, the first question that comes to mind is, "Am I feeding correctly?" Most people question their feeding program because it directly affects the condition of the animal and it is the most expensive part of the program, other than its purchase cost.

The most important consideration before the determination of your feeding program is the actual evaluation of the animal. First, did the animal have adequate size at the time of purchase? Second, did it have the genetics to grow into a superior show animal? Third, was it properly conditioned at the time of purchase and did its body condition change significantly after the purchase? These questions speak to the proper development of your show cattle and do not address physical traits that could be affecting performance in the show ring. You must be honest with yourself and understand that no feed program in the world can change or correct any physical deficits in your show cattle.

Now let’s address feeding programs for show cattle. The easiest and most effective way to feed show cattle is to select a high-quality base feed to start to form your ration. Good examples of these would be either Formax Developer or Formax Grower. These complete feeds are fortified with vitamins and minerals and provide a good base of protein, energy and fiber to develop your show ration.

Other ingredients to keep in mind to develop complete show rations are cracked corn, oats, cottonseed hulls, shredded beet pulp, soybean hull pellets, Formax Preconditioning Pellets and Fitters Choice 32% Pellet. Each ingredient or combination, along with our base feed, can be used to make the perfect ration for each animal.

To determine how to enhance the base feed, you must honestly evaluate each animal. You must determine if it is over conditioned, under conditioned, properly conditioned and growing at an adequate rate. Another consideration when evaluating your animal is the amount of fill it is achieving. After honestly evaluating each animal’s condition, growth and fill, you can then determine the direction you need to take for its feeding program.

Animals that are over conditioned need part of their base ration substituted with oats, CSH, SHP, SBP, preconditioner, 32% Fitters Choice or a combination of some or all. The goal here is to decrease the amount of energy consumed by the animal while keeping protein and fiber high. This should promote lean growth by the animal so that weight gain will be added in the form of skeletal growth and muscle.

Under-conditioned animals, on the other hand, need increases in energy to help them add more body condition. We most readily observe this situation in market steers and growing bulls. Sometimes newly purchased calves can be under conditioned if they were weaned from a poor-milking dam. In this case, part of the base ration needs to be replaced with CC. As a general rule of thumb, try replacing 25 percent of the base feed with CC and half a pound of 32% Fitters Choice. This should increase the energy level enough to start adding fat to the animal while maintaining protein for muscle development.

To help increase fill products such as CSG, SHP and SBP can be used. Lately, however, more show people are having great success increasing fill by using preconditioner at about 10 percent of their diet. Any of these ingredients can help you increase fill, so try some of them to determine which works best for your animal.

Even though we have these guidelines to follow, it is nearly impossible to feed your show cattle correctly if you don’t have access to scales. First, it is imperative to know what your cattle weight is to feed them properly. Cattle that need to simply maintain growth and body condition need to be fed 2-2.5 percent of their body weight. Thus the importance of knowing what your cattle weigh. Cattle that need to add body condition need to be fed at 3-3.5 percent of their body weight. So access to scales couldn’t be more important. You also need a set of scales to properly weigh the feed so you can hit the correct baseline amount to feed.

It is important to remember these are only general guidelines and realize each animal is an individual that has specific feed needs to help them reach their full potential. Always ask those with experience feeding show cattle for advice and take these ingredients you can buy at the Co-op and work on crafting your perfect animal. If we can help, please give us a call.


Stephen Donaldson is AFC’s animal nutritionist. If I can help any of you, please get in touch with me and let’s succeed together. You can reach me at 256-476-5272 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..