11 Ways to Sabotage Your Livestock Project

daily care feeding health selection Nov 08, 2021

Long before the show begins, the decisions you make about your livestock project start to influence the outcome you will have in the ring. At some point in their career, every show family makes decisions that limit their success.  Here are 11 Ways to Sabotage Your Livestock Project and what to do instead. 


1. Ignore the breeder's ideas about which animal you need for your show. When you pick out your new livestock project, be prepared to share your goals with the livestock supplier you've chosen, then put faith in their recommendations about which animals might be the best fit for your family.  

In Principles of Show Pig Success, an online course from herdly.io, Jesse Heimer says, "I think when folks come to the farm to look at pigs, all too often, they focus on the obvious things."  Noting that people tend to gravitate towards the pigs that look the best on that day, and not on the ones that have the most genetic potential to help your family reach your goals. "The beauty of show pigs is that they change. As a breeder, who sees those pigs on a daily basis, we see that change." Jesse says. 

Breeders know the animals, their genetic potential, and they see how those animals have been growing and changing since birth. Put faith in their assessment of which ones will feed.  

2. Blow the receiving period.  The first week, and really the first month, you get your new project animals home is a critical time period. As animals adjust to new housing and new routines it creates a lot of stress. 

In The Showman's Guide to Show Pig Health, Todd Price, DVM says "We have to watch how the animals respond to the stress. If they adjust, they can fight off bacteria and pathogens. If they don't adjust, then their immune system stays low and they're more susceptible to [health challenges]." 

How you receive your livestock, and predominantly, how healthy those animals are during the first 30 days of your project will set the tone for the entire feeding period. 

3. Saying "we'll do that tomorrow." Putting small tasks off another day can become a habit that wreaks havoc on your future success. If you catch yourself relating tasks with tomorrow, check yourself by asking, "Can this be handled today?" instead.  

4. Waiting to call the vet. If you aren't 100% confident about the diagnosis and treatment of a health issue that pops up in your barn, it's time to call the vet. Never monkey around with animal health.  

5. Pushing/holding too early. Your goal as a feeder should be to maximize each animal's genetic potential. Livestock need the right nutrition at the right time in the feeding period to meet this goal. Too often, inexperienced families push or hold too much, too early in the feeding period.  

In Principles of Show Pig Success, Brent "Boots" Boland discusses feeding pigs for their phenotype. "Getting pigs through the growing phase all comes down to keeping their muscle in check and keeping their structure in check", says Boland, who notes that evaluating and managing the proper level of nutrition for each animal begins as soon as you receive your project.  

6. Not paying attention to weight. This one can get you at any stage of the project. From buying an animal that's the wrong size to reach peak maturity at your target show, to waiting too long to get weights and begin keeping track of your animal's growth, this one trips a lot of people up! 

7. Feeding too many additives. There's always a lot of buzz around the business about the latest and greatest additives, so it's easy to start blending a little of this and a little of that until one day you look at your ration and realize there isn't much good old fashioned feed in your feeder. Simplicity is one of the key elements of a great feeding program. Don't lose sight of the nutritional value of your total ration while you're reaching for the additives. 

8. Not asking for help.  "When you start out showing, you're not supposed to know anything about it," exclaims Jesse Heimer in Principles of Show Pig Success. He was often frustrated that by the time he had learned all the ins and outs of showing, he was too old to step into the ring himself.  "The beautiful thing about the 4-H experience is that's when you get to give back," says Heimer. 

From 4-H and FFA advisors to the people who supply show animals to your friends and family, the beautiful thing about this program is that you are surrounded by people who want to help and want to see you and your family succeed. Have a question, concern, or just need some confidence? Ask for help. 

9. Ignoring animal health. As our animals grow and we get past the receiving period, they aren't cute babies anymore. We get busy, life in the barn becomes routine, and we don't pay quite as much attention as we should to the small details. A raspy breath turns into a cough. A little slow turns into completely off feed. We forget routine maintenance like dealing with parasites. As feeders, animal health is our responsibility for the entire project. Don't let it slack!

10. Letting the barn get dirty. This one is really common when school is in session, when a project season is coming to a close, and when the results we're getting in the show ring aren't matching up with our expectations for the project. Taking care of your facilities is a big part of taking care of livestock. Take pride in what you do 365 days a year. 

11. Not trusting the Program. Whether it's giving up on the feed you're feeding or giving up on the animals on feed, too often feeders fail simply because they don't trust the program. Give it time. Have faith in the genetics of the livestock you selected. Believe in yourself.  Every great feeder can tell you a story about a winning animal that didn't remotely resemble a winner at some point in the project. Maybe it's yours? Trust the program. 

Whether you're a new or experienced feeder, hopefully, you consider these tips and find them helpful!  If you do, share this post with a friend! 


herdly.io offers video-based online courses in showing livestock, taught by the industry’s most talented breeders and feeders. We're here to help you win - in the show ring and beyond. 

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