TIME4SHOW & SALE: Show Cattle Preparation Guide

Show cattle preparation guide

Show cattle preparation guide

Cattle show judges look for correct conformation, body condition and mobility in the ring. Making sure cattle are properly prepared will help to enhance positive attributes and strengthen any weak areas, improving the chance of a prize on show day or a higher price at sale.

Read our pre-show guide to ensure your cattle will be looking their best on the day:


Supplying a balanced diet is key to creating a champion. However, it’s important to remember that feeding should achieve muscle growth and enhance development but not impact health.

To reduce health issues, cattle should be fed depending on their breed, age and type i.e., whether they’re breeding bulls or suckler cows.

If cattle are being reared for the show ring from birth, they should be switched from milk and calf pellets onto a slower growing mix to prevent them becoming too fat too quickly. At eight to nine months of age cattle should be moved onto a pre-show ration.

If older cattle are being readied for showing, they will need to be fed a pre-show ration three to four months before the show date.

If you need more advice on how to ensure cattle are in the best condition for the showring, speak to your local Carr’s Billington’s on-farm specialist who will take the following into account:

  • Forage analysis and availability
  • Animal targets and farm focus
  • Input costs

Our team will be able to suggest the most suitable, ready prepared coarse mixes, such as the Supreme show mix, or explain more about custom mixes and blends.  

Top feeding tips:

  • Slower digested starch sources including rolled oats, barley and maize products and quality digestible fibre sources, such as sugar beet pulp, aid development and provide energy without digestive upsets
  • Adding linseed into the diet can improve coat shine
  • Biotin and zinc can also help enhance skin, hair and hoof quality
  • Consider using a live yeast, such as Actisaf®, to help stabilise the rumen pH, maximising feed utilisation and efficient digestion

Washing, clipping and feet checks

Washing and clipping are also important preparatory steps that should be taken before any show or sale.

One month ahead of show day

Show cattle should initially be washed at least four weeks before a show using shampoo and warm water to make clipping the coat easier. Once this has been done, clip away any remaining winter coat and begin training the top line hair to make it easier to manage nearer the show date.

Check feet condition at this point too. Foot problems may hinder the way the cow moves which will bring your score down while in the ring. Catching any problems early will ensure enough time to get them rectified.

A week before show day

Cattle should be washed, blow dried and clipped again up to a week before the show to allow enough time for the hair to grow out and highlight any areas that need last minute adjustments.

Blow-drying a cow after washing will dry them off and make the hair stand up for easier and more accurate clipping.

Clipping is used to improve the overall appearance of the cow, and the general idea is to make heifers look more ‘feminine’ and bulls more ‘masculine’.

Top clipping tips:

  • Clipping the shoulder tighter and leaving a longer top line will help heifers look more feminine
  • Start with the tail, then move to the chest, brisket and navel, sheath, top of the neck and onto the forarm/shoulder. After this move onto the belly/side wall before focussing on the back legs, hind quarters and upper hip. Finish with the top line and top of the tail followed by the head and neck
  • Lubricate the clipper blade around every 30 seconds to keep them sharper for longer and prevent them overheating

On show day

Make sure you leave plenty of time for final cleaning and clipping on the day of the show and don’t forget to take the following final steps just before heading into the ring:

  • Increase the tail volume by backcombing the hair and set it with hairspray
  • Use black and/or white spray to touch up any blemishes
  • Run a soft bristle brush over the coat for a last time to remove any flecks of straw or dust
  • Spray the coat with a final mist spray to increase shine

Below is a handy checklist of show cattle supplies to help you get show ready:

  • Shampoo
  • Clippers
  • Blade lubricant
  • Blow dryer
  • Brushes and combs
  • White coat
  • Feeders and waters
  • Halters, lead ropes and sticks
  • Feed and supplements
  • Hair products including hair, white, black and final mist sprays
  • Suitable livestock handling footwear

If you are short of any show supplies, make sure you drop by one of your local Carr’s Billington stores, where we have all of the essentials in stock.