The secret to elite dairy show cattle success comes down to one word, preparation. The show season is a 365 day process. Whether it is optimum growth, weight management, hair growth, or physical fill, the process is filled with peaks and valleys. All dairy show stock experiences these changes throughout the year as well as from show to show. “Growth spurts”, heat cycles, weight changes, and genetic predisposition all impact your animal throughout the show season.
The art of “filling” your show cow or calf is truly one of the most difficult aspects of showing cattle. Each animal will have certain needs and will fill differently. Traditionally, the industry has relied on three key ingredients to accomplish this task. Water, hay, and beet pulp have been the staples of naturally creating depth and spring of rib. All of these options are beneficial, but each has their limitation. Dry hay has been the most popular way to achieve fill, but the animal will eventually “stall” on the same hay. Water will tend to “make or break” your fill as it takes time to settle and can either make the animal look “balloon-like” or “break” in the chine, if over done. Beet pulp has been an option used for many years. From a feeding standpoint, beet pulp is limited to the correct moisture content for proper filling and the proper feeding time to let the feed settle, so that the animal does not look “pot-gutted”. Also, the high sugar content, and the recent surge in commodity pricing makes beet pulp a high calorie, expensive fiber option.
A product has been created that will bridge the gap between these options. Natural Fill! This well-tested, all-natural fiber product is designed for optimum fill of your dairy calf, heifer, and cow. Natural Fill was formulated with the dairy show animal in mind. This low energy, high fiber alternative is made from a specific combination of chopped hay, digestible fiber, minerals, molasses, and yeast. Natural fill is stored in a plastic bag that will “ferment” slightly and will have a stable shelf life. During this process, the feed becomes a perfect fit for the calf, heifer, and cow. One of the greatest strengths of Natural Fill is its palatability, which is second to none. The smell, taste and texture of the feed are the key to its success. During the testing phase in 2010 and 2011, many exhibitors have mentioned the “tunneling” into the straw pack to get every bite of Natural Fill.
The latest trend for Natural Fill is its use as a TMR replacement for the lactating show cow. Natural fill is fermented, so it is very similar to the TMR that many dairy cows receive at home. The main difference is that it is lower starch, thus lowering the water retention that high starch total mixed rations are known for. This will equate to increased dairy character and more natural texture to the udder. Also, the low protein, high fiber, and low grain content make it very flexible to any base grain or top dress. For calves and heifers, Natural Fill should be introduced slowly at home or prior to the show and can be used as a compliment to your current program or a replacement for hay and beet pulp in this tight forage market.
Natural Fill is a great value for the combination feed that it is. You will get the balanced spring and depth of fore and rear rib that is the goal in top end show cattle. The cattle will attack the feed and will not stall or alter the rumen population like heavy beet pulp feeding will. Natural Fill will have the greatest results when it is used to build a steady fill throughout the show season. Look for Natural Fill at the fall shows, they are changing the way show strings put their fill on.
See the banner ad for more information on Natural Fill.