Tips for Traveling with Your Show Cattle

youth boys exhibiting their show cattle at a show

One of the most stressful things about showing cattle can be keeping them on feed and hydrated when traveling to shows. Everything else might be as good as can be - the calf looks great, their hair is in good shape, they’re clipped out to the max, you have an awesome fitting crew lined up for show day, your favorite judge is sorting the show, and the steer or heifer looks fantastic. Then, you get to the show, your calf is thrown into a new environment, they stress out, and decide they absolutely will not eat or drink. BOOM! Everything that has gone well up until this point begins crashing and falling before your very eyes! Further, the calf that doesn’t eat, typically does not drink (and vise-versa). I have been in these situations more times than I care to admit, and it can make what is supposed to be a fun show, very stressful. I’m happy to share a few pointers that may help you in situations like this.

Keeping Your Show Calves Hydrated

Keeping your animals hydrated is extremely important. We rarely go to a show without our big blue barrel of water from home. As we all know, water tastes different everywhere you go, and bringing water from home can keep the cattle from being turned off by water with a different taste than they are used to. If an animal comes off the trailer and will not immediately drink, I like to tie them down and just let them try to relax and get acquainted with their surroundings. Often, the first thing they’ll start munching on is hay. This is good for a couple reasons. First, it gets some forage in their gut, which stimulates their appetite. This hay consumption ultimately leads the calf drinking water. In addition, the 60-pound Opti-Ferm Lix Cattle Stress Relief tubs are designed for easier transport and will be put to good use when going down the road with your cattle. The licking action on the tub increases salivation, which can also get your show calves eating and drinking more.

Keeping Your Show Calves on Feed

Once your calves are past the initial jitters and it’s time to fill them up for show day, Kalmbach® and Formula of Champions® products can really come into play. No matter what complete feed you’re using, I like to incorporate Fill ‘Er Up® into the show day diet. Anywhere from 1-3 pounds of this supplement will do wonders for spring and fill. Fill ‘Er Up® is a high-fiber, dry mini-pellet that expands several times its size once it hits the moisture in the gut. Rumi-Fill Complete™ will have similar results with your show cattle and can be fed at higher rates since it’s a complete feed. I always like to take at least one high-fiber feed that the steer or heifer isn’t currently fed just to have a couple options and increase show day consumption. Fully Charged®, Heifer Developer, Guts & Glory®, or Show Calf Accelerator have all served that purpose for us and helped in getting the cattle fuller for the show ring. Let’s not forget, Kalmbach Feeds® also distributes Green Meadows® Natural Fill™, a chopped haylage with oats and barley. When using high-fiber products like these, we are less likely to cause gut issues when using them intermittently. In most cases, the more feed your calves consume, the more water they drink. As much as we like them to look “2 buckets full” for the show ring, the most important thing is that we keep our cattle hydrated and on-feed while we’re on the road.

Have questions about a feeding program for your show calves? We’re here to help!


Levi Richards

Levi Richards is a Regional Sales Manager and Program Director for the Formula of Champions brand. He studied Animal Science at The Ohio State University ATI. Levi has judged cattle, sheep and goat shows in 14 states and Canada. He and his family sell a variety of show cattle throughout the fall, and travel year-round to service his customers at all stages of the game. He enjoys traveling the country both for vacations and showing livestock with his wife, Kayla, and their six children.