Keeping Your Show Heifers in Shape for Spring - Cowsmo

Keeping Your Show Heifers in Shape for Spring

As we get into spring, although that seems like a loose term in many parts of the country, the 2018 show season is already in full spring. Showing heifers in the spring can prove to be challenging, so Cowsmo asked four well-known breeders with strong heifer strings for some show heifer tips to follow in order to keep heifers in shape through winter.

Triple-T Holsteins & Jerseys – Nathan & Jenny Thomas

Location: North Lewisburg, OH
Milking: 30 head of registered Holsteins & Jerseys in a 6-stall flat parlor
Housing: Bedded packs & freestall
Notable Heifers Results:

·        Ms Lysterines Luckylady – Junior Champion Royal 2016

·        Kash-Up Andreas Envy – Junior & Supreme Junior Champion Ohio Spring Dairy Expo 2017

·        Many All-American & All-Canadian nominations in Jersey, Holstein & R&W over the past few years

Benbie Holsteins – Ian & Nicole Crosbie

Location: Caron, SK
Milking: 160 head of registered Holsteins in a double 12 parallel parlour, 3X/day
Housing: sand-bedded freestall with an additional straw pack for milking herd
Notable Heifer Results:

·      Several Junior, Reserve & HM Junior Champion results in Western Canadian shows

·      1st place Junior Breeders herd – Westerner Championship 2016

·      8 nominations and 6 wins in the All-Western heifer competition in the past 2 years


Knowlesmere/Jones Holsteins – Gary & Izzy Jones

Location: Shropshire, UK
Milking: 200 head of registered Holsteins
Housing: freestall environment with mattresses and shavings on top and a straw pack for show cows
Notable Heifer Results:

·      Have exhibited/housed Junior Champion of the UK Dairy Expo for the last 3 consecutive years

·      Claimed Junior, Reserve & HM Junior Champion at the All-Britain Calf Show in 2017

·      Owned/housed the winners of all the heifer categories of the All-Britain Awards this past year.

Charlyn Farms – Jon & Sandy Kingdon

Location: Warwick, ON
Milking: 40 cows, registered Jerseys (2/3 of herd) and Holsteins (1/3 of herd), in a 40-cow tie stall facility

Notable Heifer Results:

·    Won 1st place Junior Herd at the Royal Jersey show in 2012 and went on to be All-Canadian Junior Herd

·    3 Jersey heifers have been HM Junior Champion at the Royal in recent years and 2 others have been Reserve in 2004 & 2009

·    Have bred over 40 All-Canadian and All-American Jersey heifer nominees

·    Royal Results: Jr Premier Breeder in 2016 & 2017 and tied for Jr. Premier Exhibitor in 2016

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What are you typically feeding your show heifers?

Triple T: Show heifers are fed individual diets year-round and offered free choice hay at all times. In the late spring and summer, the heifers go out to pasture at night, weather permitting, and during the winter they go out during the day. In the off-season we push our heifers to grow and just be heifers. We do attend a couple spring shows, but our main focus is that our show string be on the money for fall.

Benbie: During the winter all heifers are fed a TMR of barley silage, dry hay and barley grain, to keep them growing while allowing them to maintain adequate rib. Two months prior to a show the show prospects are separated into 3 pens and grouped according to condition and nutritional needs. Hay is generally long-stemmed brome or Timothy, with a softer brome hay being fed to the younger heifers. We feed a grain mixture, made on farm, of barley, oats, dried distillers grain and molasses, supplemented with a high protein pellet. Two weeks before the show we restrict water access to 2X/day in order to develop rib and also get heifers use to the watering schedule we keep at shows.

Knowlesmere/Jones: We feed a fairy consistent diet all year-round of ad-lib straw and an 18% protein grain. Making hay in the UK is a bit of disaster because it rains so much, but with straw it’s not an issue and for us it’s a consistent forage to feed all year. The amount of grain that the heifers receive is based on their body condition and how close we are to a show. We find that on this diet the heifers make big rib and grow well enough. The modern-day heifer doesn’t have to be a monster anymore, so we don’t push for extreme size. We are also conscious not to feed too much protein as we think this could affect their udders in the future and we want them to calve in as best as they can!

Charlyn: Through the winter we feed our Jersey show heifers a 14% pellet, supplemented with extra mineral, and free choice quality first cut hay. The younger calves receive a 22% pellet until 4 months of age. As the show season approaches, certain adjustments are made to feed intake for individual heifers. The animals we are planning to show are grouped together according to body condition. During the summer, our older heifers that are still not in optimal show condition are put on a mixture straw and first cut, their pellets are replaced by a high protein supplement and their minerals are increased.

What sort of washing and clipping protocols do you follow?

Triple-T: We tried to keep the whole herd clipped year-round. From June-October the show heifers are rinsed or washed every day, and from the end of July-October the heifer prospects for the fall shows are rinsed twice a day.

Benbie: We don’t normally get a chance to wash the heifers at all because of the cold weather we typically get in the spring. There’s no telling when the weather will dip down to -40°C so we don’t do that much clipping either because even if a heifer didn’t get sick from the cold weather, the energy she’d burn trying to stay warm would stunt her growth. However, about a month before the show we use thick blades to carve out their tops, clip their heads and thighs and trim their belly hair. This gives us a better idea of how the heifer is looking and what kind of condition they are in.

Knowlesmere/Jones: In the winter we can’t really wash/spray-off heifers every day as we would like, since in the UK the winters are a horrible wet-cold. Our first show is in March so we try to wash once/twice a week, but you really have to watch the weather as you can make them sick. Getting heifers ready for shows in the summer/fall is a lot easier as the weather is a lot milder, we can spray them off every day and have fans going in their pen.

Charlyn: We don’t have an indoor washing facility so there is no washing done through the winter. Weather permitting, we try to wash the show string a few times before the spring show. During the summer and fall our show string is rinsed 2-3 times per week. Typically, all the heifers in the barn are clipped in the new year with plucker blades, then sale and show heifers are clipped very 4-6 weeks after that. We worm our heifers twice before the spring show. Also, once the show season gets underway, the show and sale heifers that have been identified have their feet trimmed twice – 2 months before the first show, and again 2 weeks before the show.

What sort of exercise and halter-breaking procedures do you follow?

Triple-T: Our show heifers go out to pasture at night during the late spring and summer months. In the winter they go out during the day only.

Benbie: Our heifers are grouped into 3 pens. The second pen has outdoor access to a bale feeder and the third pen is an outdoor coral, so they get plenty of exercise. It’s harder to halter break during the winter so we mainly just tie them with their heads up and then lead them around a few times when the weather permits.

Knowlesmere/Jones: We keep our heifers in groups of four and they have a big pen where they can walk around lay down on a small pack on the back. We like housing them in groups as we want to promote competition and not have them be babied. The heifers we show are selected because not only are they good heifers, but we think they could be good cows! Generally, a lot of the heifers we show are from our best cows.

Charlyn: All of our halter-breaking starts in the new year. We start by tying the heifers up and getting them used to the halter. Once the weather warms up we walk the show string once a week in addition to leading them when we wash and clip them.

Thank you and best of luck to our four panel farms as they blaze the tanbark trail in 2018! Their progress can be tracked through Cowsmo’s extensive show coverage at

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