As we discussed in the first two posts, effective feed programs are vital to show ring success. We have learned about creep and transition feeds, as well as grower and developer feeds. In this post we are going to examine the third stage of feeding cattle: finisher.


A finisher feed helps put cover, or finish, on your steer.

This is where the term “fat steer” comes into play. This means that you are putting the final layer of fat and marbling on your animal. While winning is important, so is producing a quality carcass.


Finisher feeds are designed to be fed the last 90-120 days. If your animal was on a developer feed, it is going to need less time on finisher. If your animal is on grower, it will need a little more time. This is because the developer has a higher fat content.


Compared to growers and developers, finishers are lower in protein, around 10-11%. They are higher in fat (around 5-7%) and lower in fiber. The lower protein and fiber ensure your animal keeps fat as marbling. Marbling is the fat throughout the meat that gives it flavor. Most cattle producers strive for the prime grade, as it is in demand and typically brings a higher premium.



The tail head, brisket, and cod are good indicators of finish. The visual below illustrates a finished and unfinished brisket. The average fat cover for a market beef is .4 – .7 inches. You want fat visible, but not lumpy. It is possible to overfinish an animal. This means that the animal has too much fat cover.



The below graphic from the University of Kentucky’s article on market livestock grading gives you an idea of what your goal should be. If you aren’t seeing those fat pockets on the sides of the tailhead, then your steer isn’t starting to put on any finish yet. Keep pouring the feed to him! (Photo source:  http://afs.ca.uky.edu/livestock/grading/Market-Steers-Yield-Quality-Grade)


During the finishing stage, cattle may decrease their feed intake.

Don’t be alarmed as this is normal, especially in hot weather. The key is to keep the animals cool and give them plenty of water.

Check out “Feeding Show Cattle to Maximize Potential” to learn tips to help you get the most from your market beef.

There are many different types and brands of supplements on the market.  Though we won’t go into detail about all of the varieties, we would like to mention a few that we have used.  Other brands have similar products, these just happen to be the ones we are most familiar with:


Purina High Octane Heavy Weight Top Dress

If you find that your calf isn’t packing on the weight fast enough and you feel like you need to increase feed intact, we’ve had success using Purina’s Heavy Weight product. Information from Purina’s website state that it is highly palatable and can be used to improve voluntary feed intake. It contains 70% crude fat content that acts as a source of energy to promote growth, bloom, and help increase body condition.

Purina High Octane Ultra Full

Does your calf need a little more flank? We recommend Purina’s Ultra Full product as a way to help support fill in the lower body and flank area. Plus, it will also help stimulate feed intake.


It takes a lot of hard work to produce a quality animal.  Sometimes you’ll need to put in extra work and research to find the right supplement for your calf.  Effective feed programs can take beef projects to the next level.  After all your hard work feeding your show animal, remember to have fun once your target show arrives.  You deserve to be proud of your beef product.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our three-part series on feed programs.  If you have comments or questions, please leave them below.  If you’d like to have a conversation with us about your particular calf and get our input on how you might improve him, send us a message and photo to mommamills (at) silverbarncattle.com.



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