How Fat is too Fat

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OH Breeder

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I would like to know how we are expected to transition our show heifers to breeding females with the amount of condition it seems the judges like to see on them. I think it is really wrong that most judges want to see the show heifers rolling in fat. It does them no good when trying to breed post show career. Maybe it is just my perception, but it seems that we have to shrink them down after there show career. Right or Wrong?
 

chambero

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I hear some judges criticizing bred heifers as being too fat sometimes down here.  That's a good sign.  You get killed in the young classes (12 months and under) if you don't have them "steer" fat though.

This is the first year I've ever continued showing heifers after about 18 months of age and I'm trying to decide how to manage it.  One of my son's heifers is currently due to calve in late Aug/early Sep.  We kicked her out of the barn in mid June and put her on nothing but grass.  We'd been cutting back the feed on her since spring and going to more hay.  I'm hopeful we won't have calving problems. 
 

red

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Good question OH B! I know it is a big problem for show heifers to walk that fine line between being show ready & breeding ready. My big red cow showed almost till her due date & it was a big mistake. She had a 130 pound calf. She wasn't overly fat either.

Now, we start reducing their grain gradually after their done showing. Then we turn them out w/ the cows where they recieve just hay. I try to really watch my BSC on the heifers. If they start getting that roll or pouch of fat, then their cut back on grain.

I know, especially in Ohio, they like the heifers to be fat. Personally, I think your looking for a disaster when doing that. I'd much rather see a growthy, heifer w/ a good body score any day.

Red
 

OH Breeder

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I just think sometimes it is contradictory the judges in our area here say they would like to see more "condition" on the female. But, yet the ones that are carrying more condition usually are steer fat. We had problems in the past getting them to settle when they are that fat. You are right a fine line between "show ready" and good breeding condition.
My question is why do they think that by carrying more conidition they are of better breeding quality? Really confuses me.(that is not hard to do)
 

red

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They aren't of better breeding quality. A fat heifer is harder to breed, has more chance of having calving problems & won't always breed back. Too me it's a train wreck waiting to happen. Until judges start picking heifers that aren't overly fat though, you'll not see any changes. I really don't understand why fat= good. In the real world it certainly isn't the case.

Red
 

ROAD WARRIOR

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The old saying is that fat covers alot of faults. There may be hope though, in two major shows that I have been to in the last year I heard judges comment that some of the heifers were too fat and actually placed them lower in class for that reason. The problem of fat heifers is a serious one, not only does it affect the fertility of the heifer but also her milk production down the road if you do get her bred. When you lay that much cover on a female it is only natural that the udder will also fill with fat as well. I always drag our best females out to the shows as I think everyone else does, but I refuse to get one "hog" fat just to win a class. Why take your best heifer and screw her up for a ribbon or banner? I would love to see judges go back to picking females that look like females not steers.
 

knabe

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perhaps some judges could comment on this.  to me, it trending towards a market heifer (the joke breeding barrow) class.  since the fatties have been winning and people may be apprenhensive about showing normal heifers cause they know they will get beat, there may be a tranistion of the type of animal that wins until the judges start rewarding appropriate cover.  i know it's probably hard to do, but different regions have different grass, and it would be nice to see judges reflect local feed in the reasons. the south has more rain and more grass, the west, less grass and less rain.  it seems to me to be a little misguided to select animals that are feedbunk animals without allowing local feedstuffs to influence decisions. 

interesting that road warrior thought that people still bring the best heifers and weren't discouraged.
 

shorthorns r us

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if you don't think that bob funk has callahan and crew drag the best ones, you are fooling yourself.
 

ROAD WARRIOR

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knabe - Didn't say that some weren't discouraged. I am speaking from a pure bred out look as well. I have stated before that the out come of the shows is usually tainted and there is a growing movement (at least in our breed) by a lot of breeders to actively evaluate the cattle in the stalls, alleys and show ring for themselves and not put a lot of stock in what the judges opinion for the show might be. I believe (after 30+ years on the road) that if you bring your best, good, sound and functional cattle to town and present them as well as you can the people (buyers) will find you. It has worked for us - a reputation is built by each opperation by their cattle and actions - whether good or bad is up to the individual. The quality of feed stuffs, roughage etc. is the wild card. Yes we have more volume of grass here than they do in western Kansas but the protien levels also vary greatly. Ours is typically 5 - 6% and theirs is is in the 15 - 17 % range- ie - we have volume they have quality. I'm not sure how to adjust that into a showring format, it will take someone of higher intelligence than me to figure that one out. I can tell you that the cows thaty we buy out west will take up to two years to acclimate to our lower protien forages and they look like hell untill they do.
 

justintime

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This is an issue that has bugged me , as well as many others for many years. It reminds me of a policy several years ago when one of the biggest bull buyers in Canada, PFRA, sent out a statement in which they expressed their concern over the condition of the bulls they were buying. They said that they would not be bidding on bulls that were considered to be carrying too much fat.Since they usually buy several hundred bulls a year at very good prices, several leading breeders cut the feed back on their bulls. It was very obvious that they forgot to tell the guys they sent out to buy the bulls as they only both the fatter bulls even after claiming that they weren't going to bid on them. As a result, most buy producers went back to feeding they way they used too.
It used to be that Americans who came to Canadian shows, told us that we had our show cattle too fat. That has changed in the past few years as the American shows I go too, have show cattle that are beyond being just fat... they are obese.
Here in Canada, we also show two year old females with a calf at foot as well as mature cows with a calf at foot. Several years ago, I had a conversation over breakfast with Louis Latimer of Remitall who said that the Polled Herefords were going overboard on conditioning... especially on their heifer calves. There were almost 300 Polled Herfs at  Canadian Western Agribition that year and Louis wanted to bet me $1000 that no Polled Hereford heifer that was shown at Agribition that year would return as a two year old with a calf at foot. I didn't want to bet as I thought he was probably right. Two years later he told me that he had kept track and not one of the near 300 heifers had returned to show as a two year old.
My grandfather used to say that there oftentimes is a big difference between showing breeding stock  and breeding show stock. Sounds to me that we may be seeing this regularly today. There are a lot of hot dog heifers that are never heard of again once their show careers are over, unless they are flushed and another cow that CAN milk raises the calf.
 

red

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Great post Justintime!!!!
Really hit home on some of your thoughts.

I know "justme" was told to fatten her heifer up by a judge. What will she do w/ a fat heifer after it's show career is over?

Wish judges would think before they speak sometimes!

Red
 

ROAD WARRIOR

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justintime said:
This is an issue that has bugged me , as well as many others for many years. It reminds me of a policy several years ago when one of the biggest bull buyers in Canada, PFRA, sent out a statement in which they expressed their concern over the condition of the bulls they were buying. They said that they would not be bidding on bulls that were considered to be carrying too much fat.Since they usually buy several hundred bulls a year at very good prices, several leading breeders cut the feed back on their bulls. It was very obvious that they forgot to tell the guys they sent out to buy the bulls as they only both the fatter bulls even after claiming that they weren't going to bid on them. As a result, most buy producers went back to feeding they way they used too.
It used to be that Americans who came to Canadian shows, told us that we had our show cattle too fat. That has changed in the past few years as the American shows I go too, have show cattle that are beyond being just fat... they are obese.
Here in Canada, we also show two year old females with a calf at foot as well as mature cows with a calf at foot. Several years ago, I had a conversation over breakfast with Louis Latimer of Remitall who said that the Polled Herefords were going overboard on conditioning... especially on their heifer calves. There were almost 300 Polled Herfs at  Canadian Western Agribition that year and Louis wanted to bet me $1000 that no Polled Hereford heifer that was shown at Agribition that year would return as a two year old with a calf at foot. I didn't want to bet as I thought he was probably right. Two years later he told me that he had kept track and not one of the near 300 heifers had returned to show as a two year old.
My grandfather used to say that there oftentimes is a big difference between showing breeding stock  and breeding show stock. Sounds to me that we may be seeing this regularly today. There are a lot of hot dog heifers that are never heard of again once their show careers are over, unless they are flushed and another cow that CAN milk raises the calf.

You hit the nail on the head- a few years ago our National champion female was packing a ET calf - they couldn't get her bred AI so they stuck an embryo in her instead. That calf never made it past the weaning pen as it nearly starved to death and probably would have if it had not had full accesss to a creep feeder from day one. They have since flushed the cow several times but I don't think she has ever had another natural calf. It is time to step back and look at the big picture - fat may be a pretty color but it is certainly not the most functional or efficient.
 

ratmama2

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Last year my son showed a Jan yearling heifer. In her class was one over done heifer and one grossly over fat heifer. She wobbled when she walked. I figured they would be placed last in the class cause they were over fat, they weren't. The grossly fat heifer was second, my son was third. They judge even commented on her being to fat but yet placed her above the less fat heifers. We feed so that they are not over just for the breeding aspect. They look nice but are breedable. We also breed our ladies at about 16 months old or so depending on age and weight. If I see fat pads or too much fat over ribs all they go on a diet. My sons'  heifer had a really nice bull calf in Feb. took first time to AI. Calves are more important to me than banners, if that it what it takes to win we still won't over feed. Can't make money on a banner.
 

OH Breeder

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I think you are right. It is tough. IN our area if you don't bring them in to the show ring fat like the steers then you end up at the bottom of the class. How do we go about changing the idea?
 

justme

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Our heifer is a late March 2006 and weighs around 1150 right now.  She has a cover on her but no where near fat.  The judge last week told me we needed about 150-200 pounds on her by August.  He said she would be untouchable if she had the cover.  I smiled and said thanks, but she has to be a cow too after all this.  Were increasing feed gradually.  I don't want a heifer at a show with the "squirts" and I have to calve her out not a judge.  If we get beat, so be it, but my daughter is learning about the "entire" process of raising a heifer, not just the showring.  Heifer has awesome genetics and will not be worth anything but market price if she doesn't calve.

ok I'm done lol
 

genes

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justintime said:
This is an issue that has bugged me , as well as many others for many years. It reminds me of a policy several years ago when one of the biggest bull buyers in Canada, PFRA, sent out a statement in which they expressed their concern over the condition of the bulls they were buying. They said that they would not be bidding on bulls that were considered to be carrying too much fat.Since they usually buy several hundred bulls a year at very good prices, several leading breeders cut the feed back on their bulls. It was very obvious that they forgot to tell the guys they sent out to buy the bulls as they only both the fatter bulls even after claiming that they weren't going to bid on them. As a result, most buy producers went back to feeding they way they used too.
It used to be that Americans who came to Canadian shows, told us that we had our show cattle too fat. That has changed in the past few years as the American shows I go too, have show cattle that are beyond being just fat... they are obese.
Here in Canada, we also show two year old females with a calf at foot as well as mature cows with a calf at foot. Several years ago, I had a conversation over breakfast with Louis Latimer of Remitall who said that the Polled Herefords were going overboard on conditioning... especially on their heifer calves. There were almost 300 Polled Herfs at  Canadian Western Agribition that year and Louis wanted to bet me $1000 that no Polled Hereford heifer that was shown at Agribition that year would return as a two year old with a calf at foot. I didn't want to bet as I thought he was probably right. Two years later he told me that he had kept track and not one of the near 300 heifers had returned to show as a two year old.
My grandfather used to say that there oftentimes is a big difference between showing breeding stock  and breeding show stock. Sounds to me that we may be seeing this regularly today. There are a lot of hot dog heifers that are never heard of again once their show careers are over, unless they are flushed and another cow that CAN milk raises the calf.

Saved me some typing, because I agree.

Very rarely did I see the higher placing heifers come back to show as a 2 year old in my region.  I know sometimes people just don't want the pain in the butt, but I'm pretty certain that for some, if the calf had been worth bringing out in public, it would have been shown. 

I just hate seeing heifers with big fat lumps on their pinbones, that flop when they walk.  A couple of years ago I watched the First Lady Classic at Agribition, which is for coming two year olds, and just couldn't believe how many of them were rolling fat.

Personally, I never bothered to get mine that fat.  My heifers weren't good enough to win a whole show, but they are good enough to be good cows for me, so I wasn't going to sacrifice that.  Consequently, the couple of times I was in the top two of my classes, my appropriate conditioning was one of the reasons I was there, as those judges did not want overfat pigs  (also, I did well with these heifers showing them as two year olds). 

So to answer the people looking for a solution, it comes down to the judges.  If there are more out there saying "She needs more cover" (which can be implicit through their placings, or sometimes they just outright say it) than there are saying "She's too fat", people are going to keep making them that fat.  As someone mentioned, fat does cover a lot of faults, so a weaker judge might pick fat without even trying too.  A guy familiar with breeding cattle with a really good eye is more likely to dock it.
 

ROAD WARRIOR

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Genes - your last paragraph said alot. I couldn't agree with you more. To change the system you have to change the people (judges) or at least their way of looking at things. I think most of us are ready for a change.
 

DL

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I guess I see several issues here and it depends a lot on your goals. My goal is to raise fertile females with great temperaments - my goal is neither to show nor to win. Therefore, getting them fat is just not an issue for me.

Both JIT and RW have made some really good comments - fat is not only a national human problem (the obesity epidemic) fat heifers are affected as said for the remainder of their (often short) reproductive life. Then we take this fat little beast that can't get bred and flush the heck out of her - because we have great promotional abilities we sell billions of hairy fat non fertile little females - now ain't that special ;D

Fat, just like black hair and long hair can hide a lot of sins....I guess I always figured that if I liked my cows I reallydidn't care what the judge thought...
 

OH Breeder

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Do you then start with Ag schools training these judges or national show magazines etc...how do you go about changing the way we evaluate our females. I don't think you should feed your heifers the same ration as your steers, but, any more to get them as fat you just about have too. Sad....
 

the angus111

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imo and this is a old discussion, shows are beauty contest not a production show.in shows cattle dont need to be functional apparently.the heifer with the biggest hip,cleanest front and most volume is going to win,can they travel?alot that win cant.freemartins i would guess have won.judge cant see fertility and i dont think it matters sometimes if they could..rusty swks
 
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