After you’ve worked all year long, regardless of species, the final touch for success comes down to making the right decisions at the show and final show day preparation. Due to the anxiety, uncertainty and added pressure of the final and crucial days of your child’s or students’ final project, many find themselves trying to overthink the battle of tending to their animals and making them “look the part” when it’s time to enter the ring. This is all completely understandable, and I’ve been through the same feelings more than once. Knowing that a kid/parent/family has invested the amount of time and finances in a project, and then decided to trust you with their animal in the final few days of the project that is at the “make or break” time brings on a whole new set of emotions, especially when the expectations are high. Below I want to discuss an outline the dos and dont’s that I feel can set you apart at the show and keep you grounded to a successful trip into the ring.
A successful trip to the show still needs to begin at home before you ever load up. During the last few weeks leading up to the show, try and put together a list of EVERYTHING you will need for the show such as feed, supplies, additives, soap, etc. Remember, when you’re packing your showbox and gathering supplies, always load everything you are using at home in the feed bucket, from the feed you’re feeding to each additive. Just because you’re going to the show doesn’t mean you need to change your feed and gain a whole new arsenal of additives. Try to maintain fairly steady with the plan you are on at the house to keep things going in the right direction as far as feeding at the show.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there are many, many great products on the market that can be utilized in great value. One of the major mistakes a person can make is getting to the show, and running to the show supply trailer and grabbing 3 different products that 3 different people told them would make their animal better. However, I encourage you to get a PLAN prior to arriving at the show to know which products you need to use and which will work for you the best. The best advice I can give you, if you aren’t sure on these, is to discuss this plan with your breeder, 4-H agent or someone you trust prior to loading up for the show so that your plan is in place and you have what you need when you get to the show. There are always times at the show when you’ll need one thing or another from the show supply trailer, but again, try to always gather the products and have a plan of what you need and are going to use you prior to.
Another key factor in today’s time is to remember the amount of fluid your animals require, and to be sure and keep them hydrated and not limit their water to an extensive degree. Regardless of specie, or market or breeding, livestock today must be presented “fresh” in their look and condition, and it’s impossible to keep an animal fresh when limiting water. There are, as with anything, certain individuals that are exception due to body type or managing weight, but I highly recommending not limiting water at the show, and keeping your animals on “full” water and allow them to consume as much fluid as possible.
As far as an outline of what I have found best to do daily at the show, it can vary depending on weather conditions, the show you’re at, the species you’re showing, and the facilities of the show. As a general rule, try to keep things simple. One of the most important things I’ve learned over the years is to get your animals in a routine so they know when it’s time to eat, drink, get out to go to the wash rack or scales, or simply be comfortable and rest. That last one has made a large impact on our success. When you’re not actually feeding/watering/washing/weighing, being sure your livestock are comfortable and get good rest allows them to battle the stress of a show environment, and only aide in their ability to continue to cooperate on intake and performance throughout, what can become a long week before going into the show ring.
When speaking about a daily schedule, again try to keep things simple. Normally at the show, you will feed more often than you did at home (usually 3-4 times per day) depending on your specific animal, but try to stay similar as far as the time you start in the morning and finish in the evening daily. Again, be sure your animal stays fully hydrated and offer them fluid often. As far as washing, I believe any livestock needs to be washed once daily while at the show to keep them fresh, not only from a skin and hair standpoint, but also from a comfort standpoint. When it comes to weighing in shows that require managing weight, I recommend weighing no more than 2-3 times per day, with the exception of the day of the show. A good tip to help with this is not to pull much weight off to try and hit a certain class. Collectively, try to always have a purpose or a plan when your going to do something throughout the day to allow your animal the opportunity to rest and become comfortable in a show setting.
Finally, there are many routes both throughout the feeding period and at the show to lead to success, just remember when you’re at the show, what you were doing at home is what got you to that point, and don’t stray far from the simple principles just because it’s the last few days.