How to Hold Over Animals the Low-Stress Way

Summer shows may be coming to a slow down, but in another 60 to 90 days fall shows will be ramping up. Just 45 to 60 more days winter majors start. Have you thought about holding over one of your animals that wasn’t quite dialed in this summer for one of those fall or winter shows? Perhaps you have; but there is a lot to consider: the animal’s body type, genetic makeup and their current weight should all be taken into account to make sure that animal can be carried over and fed properly with the least amount of stress involved. 

According to Blaine Rodgers, Show Livestock Business Development for BioZyme® Inc., not every animal is built to carry to a later endpoint. Exhibitors and feeders need to evaluate their animals’ body types, condition and growth patterns before knowing if their animal is a candidate for a later show.  

“If you have a tall, big framed animal that is fast growing, chances are you are not going to have success holding it over. However, one that is boxy, moderate, good proportioned, gets fat pretty quick and has a lot of good muscle shape, you can hold those forever,” Rodgers said. “You surely can hold livestock for a long period of time if you understand nutritionally how to do it, but the biggest thing is to understand which ones are the kind you can do that with.” 

Regardless if you’re talking lambs, steers or even pigs, the more moderately sized animals that don’t grow fast and put on fat easily are better to hold because you can feed them slower. Their growth curve and maturity pattern factor in to how long you can hold one.  

Use Supplements Correctly 

Rodgers suggests that it is preferable to put animals on a base ration when they are young. Let them be livestock and grow, using their given genetic potential. Then, use the targeted supplements needed, usually fat and protein, toward the last one-third or one-quarter before their final show 

“Supplements become very important in holding livestock because they contain a very potent nutritional value of whatever you’re trying to do,” Rodgers said. He explains. 

The total volume of your animal’s diet can be reduced by adding a concentrated supplement; therefore, instead of feeding a full amount, it can be reduced by half by using smaller amounts of supplements to maintain fat and protein levels.  

“When you hold an animal, you want to increase the fat and protein levels so their muscle doesn’t deteriorate, and so they have enough energy to meet the requirement so they are not starving and burning all the fat off their body, and you do this with high concentrated supplements and a low volume of feed,” he said. 

Buy Time  

One way to make sure your project animal reaches its desired endpoint, is to count the days you have until that show. Then, calculate the pounds you have to work with before that show, so you know how much time you need to buy.  

Rodgers suggests evaluating the last third of your feeding time before your endpoint. For example, if you have a pig that only has 30 pounds of wiggle room, and there are 30 days until the show, and you know that pigs typically gain two pounds per day, he’d be 30 pounds over your endpoint. You would need to hold your pig for a small portion of time to buy some time and push it at the end to make sure it is freshest when it needs to be. 

He said one of the common mistakes feeders make is holding the animals too soon. Then it fills up early and takes off. When it is time to get dialed in for that later show, the animal just won’t be ready to eat again.  

Know your Weight and Evaluate 

With any livestock project, it is important to get a regular, consistent weight on your animals. This means weighing them on the same scale, at the same time and at the same degree of fullness. For instance, you might decide to weigh every Sunday evening before chores or Saturday mornings after feeding. Whichever time you decide, stay consistent and weigh the same time each week. Weighing full one week and empty the next can really skew your records.  

Record your weights. Find a spiral notebook or a white board that hangs in the barn to record the dates and weights. A spiral notebook works as a good resource that you can record any feed changes or vaccinations in, too. 

Another thing that Rodgers suggests is to have someone you trust in the industry come in periodically and evaluate your animals for changes. It is imperative to look for differences and see these changes – both positive and negative – like an increase or deterioration in muscle or condition. Sometimes it is hard to look at our stock that we see day after day, so it is important to have a neighbor or colleague that you trust to come into your barn for an honest evaluation. 

“I have relationships with outside people that can come check on them. I rely on guys to come look at our stuff, because I see our livestock all the time, and it is harder to see the changes, but when you see them once every other week or so, you can really see the changes,” Rodgers said. 

Final Advice 

It is critical to keep the rumen working in the cattle, lambs and goats, so be sure to include hay in their daily diets. Another way to keep their digestive tract in check is by feeding a supplement with Amaferm®, such a product from the Sure Champ® or Vita Charge® lines. Amaferm is a precision prebiotic that impacts intake, digestion and absorption, for optimum health and performance. 

Sure Champ is line a of livestock show supplements that proactively work to assist with the challenges created by the show environment. Vita Charge is a fast-acting, multi-specie livestock supplement for use during stressful times when livestock need protection or assistance in recovery. The Vita Charge product line offers versatility in many forms making application easy depending on what is best for your animal. 

All animals should continue to exercise during their hold over time. This is especially important for sheep, which are predominately evaluated on muscle shape and handle. 

Let the animal realize its genetic potential.  

“Don’t buy animals that are excessively large and try to hold them right out of the gate. Because at a young age you need to establish muscle shape and you need to establish bone and skeletal growth. Keep livestock on full feed. It’s toward finishing stage that you want to hold them,” Rodgers reminds. 

Holding a livestock project over is a science and an art. Make sure you’re working with an animal that has the potential to last an additional 30 to 90 days. Use your supplements correctly, rely on a set of outside eyes to help you evaluate progress and buy as much time as you can. Don’t forget the Sure Champ with the Amaferm advantage to help your animals #preptowin every step of the way.

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