“I really like this heifer in third, but today she just looks a little stale and overdone”, says the judge. If you have tried to show heifers continuously throughout the whole year, jumping strait from majors to the summer show circuit without a break, I am certain you have heard this at some point. Heifers, especially older bred heifers, need to have time to freshen up and get her ‘school girl’ figure back.
You will need to pay careful attention to the process I lay out for you on how to freshen up your heifers. This particular program has taken years and years of research and development. No not really, just KICK EM’ OUT! That is it, turn them out on nice green pasture, or if that’s not available, a good quality round bale with plenty of room to walk will do the trick. We make it a habit to slick, or down shear the heifers before their summer break then turn them out.
If you’re like us, you will have a summer national show that you want to look your best for, this can be achieved all the while freshening your girl up. After the spring majors are over, we generally move our heifers over to a high roughage diet. We generally cut feed portions in half from April to First of June. This will still keep cattle eating and somewhat full before we begin to push on them again in the first of June for our mid-July show. Cutting the feed and replacing it with roughage such as cotton seed hulls or Sorghum Sudan hay has been a winning combination for our cattle. Also if your particular heifer goes into the summer extra greasy, a product such as Purina’s High Octane Fitter 35 can be used. Adding this product to your high roughage feed diet allows you to raise protein levels in the feed without adding a lot of volume. Think Atkins diet, the higher the protein level the more fat is burned trying to digest it.
After nationals, we slick the hair off the cattle, kick them out and they become a cow for the next two months. She might look at you with doe eyes and stand at the gate bawling for feed, but trust me you are doing the right thing for her and your success in the show ring come fall. Remember when you bring the heifers back in the barn to start feeding for your fall shows don’t feed the same ration, or at least the same amount, you was feeding before the freshening up process began. Feed about half the amount and gradually pick her up to the full amount over the course of a week or two.
Feeding heifers can be tricky, but this step in the process is an extremely simple one. If you are wondering how people show cattle continuously through the summer successfully, the answer is they probably have multiple show heifers and as one is being shown, the others are at home receiving the freshening up treatment. Next time we will talk about managing heat stress in your show cattle.
See you down the road,