Feeding Market Steers for Show


Source: Pennsylvania State University

Providing proper nutrition to your market steer is very important for that steer to reach its full potential at the market steer show. Making sure that the steer receives appropriate protein, energy, and minerals allows the steer to not only grow to reach market weight, but also ensures that the steer develops muscle and reaches an appropriate fat cover for show day. Proper nutrition starts by selecting appropriate concentrates, roughages, and minerals for your steer and providing good-quality water daily.


Concentrate is another name for grain. Most grain mixes range from 12–14 percent protein, with many exhibitors feeding a 14 percent grain mix. Many grain mixes also add a fat source to provide additional energy for developing fat cover. Regarding commercial feeds, 3–4 percent fat is very common. Start calves on grain by feeding 1 lb. of grain per feeding 2 times per day and increase by ½ lb. per day every 1–2 days until the steer consumes 2–2.25 percent of his body weight in concentrates. This percentage can be decreased if steers do not need to grow as quickly to reach their ideal finished weight by the show date. Also, if feeding a commercial steer feed, feeding instructions are provided on the label.

Additives in Concentrate Feeds

Commercial concentrate feeds often include two additives to maintain steer health. The first additive is a coccidiostat that prevents coccidiosis, an internal parasite that causes diarrhea. If severe, coccidiosis can result in death. The feed label on commercial feeds intended to control coccidiosis will indicate that the feed is medicated with either Rumensin or Bovatec. The second additive is a yeast product. This product is added to prevent digestive upsets and ensure the calf meets an expected daily feed intake. While neither of these additives is essential, they help ensure proper digestive health throughout the feeding period.


Most show steers consume hay to provide the roughage portion of the diet. Steers should receive roughage each feeding to keep the rumen functioning well for digestion. The goal with feeding hay is to prevent the rumen from becoming too acidic. This causes an issue called acidosis which can result in the animal eating less than desired.

For the first few days after purchasing a calf, consider feeding only a high-quality grass hay to allow the calf time to adjust to his new environment. Concentrates can then be gradually added to the daily diet beginning with the 1 lb. per feeding suggested above.


Always provide clean, fresh water. Be sure to scrub water buckets on at least a weekly basis to encourage water consumption. Poor-quality water or not enough water can affect feed intake. Reduced feed intake will in turn affect animal growth rate.

Vitamins and Minerals

Commercial feeds are formulated to meet the vitamin and mineral requirements of animals when fed as directed. There- fore, you do not need to provide additional minerals if you are feeding according to the label. However, some custom grain mixes do not include vitamins and minerals. In these cases, be sure to provide access to a high-quality, salt-and-mineral mix formulated for growing cattle consuming concentrates. Many commercial steer feeds typically are 90 percent dry matter. Be sure to feed steers at the same time each day to maintain feed intake. Below are two tables to help you with feeding for fast or moderate growth rates.

If manure becomes too loose, rations may need to be adjusted by decreasing the amount of concentrate and/or increasing the amount of roughage. As the steer reaches its appropriate market weight, feeds may need to be adjusted so that the steer reaches or maintains its desired fat cover. Always make feed changes gradually!

For more information on feeding market steers, contact your local 4-H educator or a livestock educator.

Table 1: Fast Growth Rate (2.0–2.25% body weight consumed as concentrate)

Steer weight Daily Dry Matter Intake, lb. Daily Feed Delivered, lb. Daily Concentrate Delivered, lb. Daily Roughage Delivered, lb.
400 10–12 11.1–13.3 8–10 1.1–5.3
500 12.5–15 13.9–16.7 10–11.25 2.65 – 6.7
600 15–18 16.7–20.0 12–13.5 3.2–8
700 17.5–21 19.4–23.3 14–15.75 3.65–9.3
800 20–24 22.2–26.7 16–18 4.2–10.7
900 22.5–27 25–30 18–22.50 4.75–12
1,000 25–30 27.8–33.3 20–22.50 5.3–13.3
1,100 27.5–33 30.5–36.7 22–24.75 5.75–14.7
1,200 30–36 33.3–40 24–27 6.3–16
1,300 32.5–39 36.1–43.3 26–29.25 6.85–17.3


Table 2: Moderate Growth Rate (1.5% body weight consumed as concentrate)

Steer weight Daily Dry Matter Intake, lb. Daily Feed Delivered, lb. Daily Concentrate Delivered, lb. Daily Roughage Delivered, lb.
400 10–12 11.1–13.3 6 5.1–7.3
500 12.5–15 13.9–16.7 7.5 6.4–9.2
600 15–18 16.7–20.0 9 7.7–11
700 17.5–21 19.4–23.3 10.5 9.4–12.8
800 20–24 22.2–26.7 12 10.2–14.7
900 22.5–27 25–30 13.5 11.5–16.5
1,000 25–30 27.8–33.3 15 12.8–18.3
1,100 27.5–33 30.5–36.7 16.5 14–20.2
1,200 30–36 33.3–40 18 15.3–22
1,300 32.5–39 36.1–43.3 19.5 16.6–23.8


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