Have you ever had a calf that won’t eat at the show?  What do you do when your steer or heifer won’t drink?


The horror of hauling your calf to the show only to have it refuse the water bucket and nibble at its feed. We’ve all heard about it, and many of us have experienced it firsthand. The stress of clipping, hauling, and being stalled in a new location can throw a calf off track.

How can we prevent this problem? In this post we will cover some basics of keeping your calf eating and drinking on the road. This helps ensure your calf looks its best when it comes into the ring.


Feed Tips

First off, do not make significant changes to your feed routine within a few days of leaving for the show. Changes to a feed can easily throw off the animal, from taste…to texture…to the breakdown within the gut. If you are going to change your feed ration or routine, it is best to do it when you have multiple days at home.

That’s not to say there aren’t supplements to help get that show-day appeal. These supplements have been tested, tried, and are true to be palatable to your calf. Purina’s Ultra Full feed supplement is designed to give your animal lower body fill. This is a pellet that comes in a 50-pound bag and can be used at the show to keep a full flank in your calf.

Another fill product that has it the market is Show-Rite’s Swell. According to the company’s website, Swell is “a highly digestible supplement.” It is “proven to give animals the show-day fill, bulk and expansion necessary to set them apart from the rest.”


Water Tips

The MOST important thing about water is to ALWAYS carry water with you. It is important knowing that your calf has the opportunity to have “home” water on the go. But it is also important to have water available on the trailer in case you get stranded and it is hot. You should be able to give your calf a drink on the trailer if necessary.


It’s easy to pack enough water for a day or an emergency. But what about multi-day shows? There’s no way you could pack enough water for the entire week of county fair or Junior Nationals. If you have a finicky drinker on your hands, start at home using an electrolyte mixed in a water bucket. Sullivan’s Restore is a great option for hydration at home or on the go. Restore helps to mask the difference in taste in water between locations. It also restores depleted muscle cells, hence the name.


Other Tips

Gut health is important. It is especially vital when you take calves to a potentially stressful environment. There are products on the market to help maintain gut health.

Crave is a Stierwalt product that is an appetite boost for livestock. It also helps keep animals on feed and water and promotes a healthy digestive system. Use Crave as an oral drench in the days leading up to leaving for a show and when you get to the show.

Another great product is from Sure Champ’s Vita Charge line. Liquid Boost is similar to Crave and helps in time of stress and recovery. Not only can this product be used as a liquid drench, but it can also be mixed into water or can be a top dress on feed.



At one point in your show career you are liable to come across an animal that doesn’t adapt to a new environment. By following these tips you can help get your calf eating and drinking on the road.

For more information on preventing stress in cattle, check out our post “Stress Relief: Factors that Lead to Stress in Cattle.”


Did we miss a tip or product? We would love to hear from you in the comments below.

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