Your palms are sweaty and your mouth is dry. It’s your first time giving a speech in front of a crowd this big. You’re prepared, but your anxiety rises and your stomach flips and flops as you walk on the stage with all those spotlights shining on you! Or think about when you started a new school. Maybe it was a transition to Junior High or High School. Or even your first day of college classes. Will you go to the right room? Will you be on time? Will you have the right books and supplies?
If the above scenarios sound familiar, imagine the stress your animal experiences as it makes its first appearance at a show. It can’t tell you, but chances are, it feels the same anxiety you might feel before giving a big speech or having an interview for a job or scholarship or even starting school. It’s up to you – its owner and the exhibitor – to look for signs and help prevent those stressful situations that might happen at your animal’s first show.
What could possibly cause your livestock project to stress out? After all, those days and weeks of feeding, washing, skin and hair care and exercising at home have all been leading up to this moment – show time. But, up until now, your animal has been bedded in it’s nice climate-controlled barn under the fans with your favorite music in the background. If it’s a calf or hog you probably rinse it at least daily.
A new environment with new smells, sounds, sights and bedding will add stress to your animal just like walking onto a stage or entering a new school will for you. Common causes of stress for animals going to a show include: a new environment with a greater temperature variance than they are used to, unfamiliar sounds and sights like strangers wanting to pet them; a change in their routine – both the times and ways they are fed and worked with; changes in their bedding and being in a show ring with unfamiliar animals instead of their barn mates from home. Additional stressors for cattle include being tied in all day in a small stall space to lay down and using a show halter on show day instead of a typical rope halter.
Although “new” can be exciting, for our livestock companions “new” is usually nerve-wracking, causing the animals to go off feed and water and even acting anxious or less calm than they do at home.
Here are some ways to eliminate the “first show” jitters and help you and your animals have a successful first trip out.
1 – Stick to your routine. If you have a set feeding schedule at home, that shouldn’t change just because you are at a show. Just like humans, animals adjust to a schedule, and like the pattern of organization. If you have a pattern of how you do things – feed, exercise, rinse – at home, then keep that same pattern at the show.
2 – Keep the environment as much the “same” as you can. If you have your Hamp barrow penned next to Duroc barrow at home, pen them that way at the show. If you play music in the barn at home, play music at the barn at the show, if you are not breaking any show rules. If you can bed on bedding like what you use at home, use that, to keep the animal more comfortable.
3 – Introduce your animal to the show ring before show day. No matter how well prepared you are, show day is typically a little crazy. Take your animal into the show ring prior to show day. If you are showing a lamb or calf, practice leading and setting up your animal. If you are showing a hog, exercise it in the show ring so it is familiar with the surroundings.
4 – Keep your animals eating and drinking. Sometimes our nerves hit right to the bottoms of our stomach, making us lose our appetite, and our animals are no different. Even the healthiest of animals are prone to go off feed when met with the major stressors of a show. Using a daily supplement, like Sure Champ® Spark® with the Amaferm advantage is a great preventative measure and will keep them healthy and eating and drinking prior to show day. Amaferm®, a natural prebiotic that works within the rumen and/or gut to optimize digestive health and boost immunity. Prior to leaving for the show and during the show, administering Vita Charge® Gel or Liquid Boost® will help you protect your animal from the effects of show-day stress so they never miss a beat.
5 – Stay calm. Your animal can sense when you are nervous, and then they stress out too. You’ve worked hard to prepare for this show, and you are ready to shine. Take a deep breath, and stay calm. If you are calm and relaxed, your animal is more likely to stay calm and relaxed too.
Follow these five simple tips to make sure your animals are as comfortable as possible during show day. If you are prepared, and they are prepared you have taken the first steps to #preptowin.