Throughout the country, hints of spring are everywhere. And while many spring shows have been canceled or postponed through March and April, your show livestock projects are likely still a priority as you prepare for the potential of summer shows. Use this extra time of social distancing to work with your animals and practice your showmanship skills.
Since the jackpot season ended a little earlier this year for cattle, and uncertainty still looms for pigs, sheep and goats of when they will get to start their jackpots, it is good to let your animals continue to grow and rest without pushing them too hard, especially with a late-summer endpoint in mind.
“Depending on the timeline you’ve got, I’m always a big believer that livestock just need time to be livestock, especially with cattle and going through the winter jackpot season and the transition of putting them back in the barn later in spring,” said Blaine Rodgers, Show Livestock Business Development for BioZyme® Inc. “I think there’s a period of time, they just need to be out and not be worked on every day. I always equate it to a kid needing a spring break when it comes time in school because they’ve been grinding a while, and they need some down time to refocus and get ready to go again.”
Because many people push their livestock so hard for the early shows, Rodgers suggests they give them a time to cool down, from nutrition, exercise and daily care standpoints. He points out this does look different for every species and for each exhibitor, depending on their final show, but it is best to bring an animal down from “12 o’clock” prior to its final show so it can peak at just the right time. There is a fine line; however, when it comes to skin, hide and hair care as you don’t want an animal to digress too much.
“Animals need a period to cool off nutritionally; make adjustments by lowering a combination of protein and energy levels as well as the overall feeding rate. This helps with their structure and helps to freshen them up. It allows a period to ramp up and peak again at the endpoint you are looking for. Think about skin, hide, hair so you are not losing ground. And with each species, this is going to look a little different,” he said.
For cattle, Rodgers suggests turning them out for 3-4 weeks and letting them get some exercise and fresh air during the nicer weather before they spend the next few months in a cooler every day. He said pen design can optimize their exercise and advises a long run with a water source at one end and feed and hay on the other end, which encourages movement. This gives them a chance to move freely during the day.
Anyone who shows breeding heifers that they want to turn into spring-calving cows, will want to prepare those yearling heifers for breeding to keep them on track to calve the following spring. Make sure they are in proper body condition and getting the nutrients they need from a high-quality vitamin and mineral program.
Because you don’t want to lose all the progress you’ve made with your cattle’s hair and skin, Rodgers recommends still providing some regular care during this break time. If your calves get lousy, mangy or just dry skin, they might rub, and recovery time for new hair growth gets exponentially longer so use a pour-on insecticide and be sure to get them in a few times a week to comb them or blow them out, to help them shed.
Show pigs can transition fairly quickly through nutrition and exercise. However, Rodgers said he likes to give them a break until about 30 days before their final endpoint show, if there is time. During the break, he cuts back on extreme exercise and extra supplements.
And between 30-60 days before their final show, lamb and goat exhibitors will want to come off any break they have been on and start ramping up their exercise program and get serious with their nutrition program to start building lean, muscle shape.
Rodgers said the transition break is a good time to make sure you have a parasite control program in place and that all animals are current on vaccinations. He also suggests making sure all your show animals are getting the proper vitamins and minerals they need to stay healthy and thrive during their last growth period before their final show and the goals you’ve been working toward.
While making a transition might seem like a challenge, there is one constant to keep your animals growing and performing, and that is maintaining their digestive health with a supplement like Sure Champ®. Every. Day.
Sure Champ is a line of daily top-dress supplements designed to drive appetite and improve digestive health of your animal. Sure Champ Cattle is fully fortified with vitamins and minerals. And, Sure Champ Spark® – for pigs, lambs and goats – is not fortified, but contains both Amaferm® and MOS. MOS traps the bad bacteria, limiting their ability to do harm. Amaferm is a precision-based prebiotic designed to enhance digestibility by amplifying nutrient supply for maximum performance. It is research-proven to increase water and feed intake, and research shows that Amaferm decreases body temperature in heat-stressed animals.
And, when the spring temperatures begin to ramp up, you can switch all animals to Sure Champ Extreme with Climate Control, which also helps enhance the digestive health and promotes intake, but also includes ingredients designed to help support animals during extreme temperatures and support hoof and coat care. Extreme also contains garlic, to deter insects.
“All livestock need a period of time in their life when they don’t look 12 o’clock prior to when they peak and look their absolute best. However, with Sure Champ in their diets every day, their digestive health and performance will be at its peak, every day you feed it. And that should be every day they are in the barn,” Rodgers said.
As the seasons change, make sure your feeding program does too. With extra time at home this spring, it is a great time to work with your animals since you’re not taking them to as many shows. Making sure your animal is in good nutritional shape happens every day with a high-quality supplement like Sure Champ.