Walking a Fine Line: How to Feed for Early Jackpots and Later Shows

There’s something about the spirit of competition that drives livestock exhibitors. Even in the dead of winter, cattle enthusiasts will bundle up, run bucket heaters to keep their aerosol cans working and pull to a jackpot show for consecutive weekends to get their fresh calves out to compete. All of this knowing that their final show – likely state fair next summer – is the one that matters most. And, when April and early May roll around, the same is true for swine exhibitors in the Midwest who hit their state jackpot circuit with new show prospects primed to compete, all the while knowing their real goal is to do well at World Pork Expo or Summer Type Conference in early June.

Although the competition is unyielding, and the days are long, there is often a fine-line from a nutrition stand-point when showing livestock at early jackpot shows that have a more important, later end-point. Balance and care must be taken to make sure those animals, especially market animals, don’t reach their finished point too soon, stay fresh and stay structurally sound while going to the early shows.

Troy Jones, a partner in Jones Show Cattle, Harrod, Ohio, says keeping their cattle on a high-quality mineral program, and not pushing the calves with an over abundance of feed keeps them gaining steadily with a focus on the end-point while they do compete at earlier shows.

“The biggest thing for us is keeping a good mineral pack in their diets to keep their gut right,” Jones said. “We use Sure Champ® so they never miss a beat and continue to grow and perform.”

Sure Champ Cattle is a pelleted, daily vitamin and mineral supplement for show cattle designed to improve digestive health, stimulate appetite and optimize health. Sure Champ Cattle contains organic zinc, copper and manganese, the maximum allowable level of selenium, vitamins A, D and E along with niacin and B-12 for added growth, bloom and health. Like all BioZyme® products, it also contains Amaferm®, is a prebiotic designed to enhance digestibility by amplifying the nutrient supply for maximum performance. It is research-proven to increase intake, digestion and absorption. Sure Champ can be top-dressed or mixed in a ration.

Jones said his family’s state fair steers are weighed weekly; however, he can gauge their progress visually, making sure they are in the proper body condition and staying fresh. To keep them fresh in their appearance, he feeds adequate amounts of protein, and he said he knows when he needs to back down. He suggests newer exhibitors who might not be quite sure what they are looking for, ask for assistance from a 4-H leader, FFA advisor or the person who sold them their calf until they are more comfortable at visual appraisal.

In addition to a high-quality mineral program plenty of fresh water is a must for the cattle. And, Jones said, as a major show approaches, he goes extra lengths to keep them hydrated and reduce their stress levels.

“I try to manage their electrolyte intake a lot and start bucket watering them before they go to a major show like state fair. I put them on Vita Charge® Liquid Boost®, which helps them absorb all the nutrients from the water, and stay hydrated so they are not losing muscle shape on the trailer ride. Additionally, because of the impact Liquid Boost has on the gut, the cattle do not feel the effects or show signs of stress caused by hauling and handling,” Jones said.

Vita Charge Liquid Boost is a multi-species liquid supplement that supports digestive health and promotes feed and water intake during times of stress and recovery. Andy Jacobson, Osceola, Iowa, says it is one of the first products his two kids’ new show pigs get when they are introduced to their show barn, and they use it throughout the jackpot season right up until World Pork Expo, to keep their pigs’ digestive health in check.

“We find Liquid Boost very useful in our program as far as maximizing the nutritional value we need for digestive health and just getting them kick-started in the right direction,” Jacobson said. “And it helps get them acclimated to what we do at home.”

Jacobson said when they first get a group of show pigs, they have an established vaccination program that they have developed with a veterinarian to maximize the nutritional benefits of their feeding protocol. Then, a combination of good nutrition, exercise and skin and hair care are all important to keeping their show projects looking and feeling their best when going to jackpots in the spring.

For the show pig arena, endurance and gut health are the Jacobson family’s biggest priorities. They rely on products like Liquid Boost and Vita Charge® Climate Control Gel to help with gut function. The early jackpot shows help build endurance by acclimating the pigs to the show world and getting them used to the stress of the trailer ride. However, about four weeks before a major show like World Pork Expo, the Jacobsons will stop showing and switch up their feeding program.

“They’ve got to be built like an athlete, but look like a super model when they hit the show ring. That’s what we shoot for, and we maximize the best of their potential without sacrificing structural integrity at the same time,” Jacobson said.

With products like Sure Champ and Vita Charge, Jacobson said, they are able to build endurance and exercise their pigs for long periods of time.

“One of the biggest weapons we have in our show box is Climate Control Paste (transitioned to Vita Charge® Climate Control Gel July 2019). When we can control body temperature and attitude, we can get the most out of an animal. Knowing that the kid and animal work together is huge. You have to know when to get after it and when to back off,” Jacobson said.

Yes, the spirit of competition is often most successful when the exhibitor and animal work together. And just like humans, we work better when our stomachs feel their best. Give your animals the best digestive health early on through their final walk into the ring with products like Sure Champ and Vita Charge.

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