From breeding to feeding your next show success
Picture the scene: your favourite cow has finally calved — the long wait is over! This was a perfect, trouble-free calving, and you can immediately see the showing potential of this new arrival.
Over the next few days, you start to picture the up-and-coming events where your new “champ” could be shown.
Breeding and genetics, however, are only part of the puzzle for achieving show success. So, how can you ensure that your budding star will fulfil its genetic potential?
In truth, much of this comes down to common sense — and with some extra attention to detail, your pride and joy will stand a better chance of bringing home the blue ribbon!
Getting your beef and dairy animals off to a good start nutritionally begins with getting them onto a good-quality creep feed. This will help develop the rumen into a large surface area capable of efficiently utilising all feeds, grass and forages. Creep rations should be high in starch and protein and include good levels of sugar and digestible fibre.
Barley, maize, soya, distillers’ grains and sugar beet pulp are all excellent feeds, and including molasses to help bind the mix will make this an easy mixture to feed to young cattle. Incorporating additives into the formulated creep that are beneficial to animal health and performance is also recommended.
To boost feed intake and enhance rumen development — which will, in turn, deliver faster growth rates — add a good-quality live yeast, such as Yea-Sacc, into the mix.
A strong, well-developed immune system is also essential for a growing animal. Supplementing the diet with Bio-Mos will help bind “bad bacteria” and provide a greater area for nutrient absorption in the gut, leading to improved feed conversion.
Minerals are another crucial element of an animal’s diet. It is essential to provide the correct specification of minerals, and mineral analysis is an easy way to establish any potential shortfalls within the diet. Feeding collated (organic) trace minerals is the best way to ensure that animals get the most out of their ration. Bioplex copper, manganese and zinc are supported by more than 21 years of research illustrating their ability to bolster overall health, immune status and reproductive function. Selenium, which is offered through Sel-Plex, also plays an essential role in metabolism, growth, reproduction and infection resistance. In the range of solutions offered by Alltech, these crucial minerals are presented in their most bioavailable forms, as close to nature as possible.
It is essential to offer a well-produced and balanced diet to the mature show animal. Older show cattle must perform well in the show ring, but every other day of the year, they also play a vital role in the herd. Ideally, the day-to-day management of the animal will rarely be disrupted.
Building on any success you achieve with your show cattle is important. After all, if the animal is good enough to be shown and displayed, then, surely, it is also good enough to be fed the best diet during the rest of the year. Doing so will ensure that, when show season comes around again, your animal will hit the ground running.
Top tips for the lead-up to your next show:
- Consistently providing a quality feed will ensure that your animal has a shiny coat and a stand-out finish.
- Feeding straw at an early age is crucial to keep the back straight. Compared to hay, straw is less heavy in the rumen when soaked, and this enables the development of a straight frame without pulling down the dorsal vertebrae.
- Introduce a single total mixed ration (TMR)* to reduce the stress associated with weaning and to promote rumen development.
- Always provide a sufficient supply of clean, fresh water to promote feed intakes.
- Avoid making any dietary changes directly before showing; the last thing you want on show day is an upset rumen.
*Young stock (up to six months old) can be fed with the milking cow’s TMR, plus ad-lib straw. The milking cow’s TMR is easy to feed out to calves and is ideal for developing rumen function from an early age. This TMR should be at least 18 percent CP at all times; when cows are out on grass, the buffer diet is not high enough in protein to meet the calves’ needs. Alternatively, calves mash is an easy and convenient way to provide your animals with a complete and balanced diet at a significant cost-savings. The mash can be stored for one month and fed either indoors or in a feeder outside. The KEENAN mixer has been proven to achieve an effective mash for rumen activity and to provide the necessary amount of mechanical fibres, which effectively stimulate the development of the rumen papillae of young animals. The more papillae that develop, the larger the nutrient absorption surface — helping you better meet the needs of your calves.
Pictured: prize-winner Dylan Davis of Lampeter in Wales has followed many of these protocols, and in conjunction with using InTouch to achieve optimal diets, has experienced great success in the show ring. Mr Davis is a firm believer that attention to detail pays off long term, both in the ring as well as the wider spectrum of his business.
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