By Lesta Kugeler, Judy Splitt & Regena Griebenow
As with most things there are several different scenarios to this undertaking. The time required to produce a show-ready animal will certainly depend on how frequently your cattle are handled at the ranch. Do you have a situation where the cattle are near the house and are fed and worked with on a daily basis or are they out for the
summer on pasture where you check on them every few days and really do not handle them? If they are handled and fed grain daily then getting them ready for show might
not take as long as the pasture cattle. If the cattle come off pasture at weaning, you then need a minimum of three months for a feeding, hair conditioning, and fitting program before your cattle will be ready to show. Needless to say gentling the calves is far easier if they are already accustomed to your presence. Calves straight off pasture may take several weeks just to get used to you, smaller pens and the new feed you’ll be giving them.
First off, you’ll need to halter break the calves. If the mother is already broken to lead, then use her to help calm the baby during training. Tie her nearby while you work with the baby. If the baby has been weaned, or the mother is not broken to lead, then her presence won’t be helpful and it would be better to leave her out. Obviously, the younger and smaller the calf is during the initial training, the easier it will be on you. However, calves younger than two months require a little more gentleness and patience to train as their young minds have difficulty grasping the whole concept.
During training, brush the calf all over, pick up its hooves and play gently with its face. Take care to watch the calf to verify that the whole experience is a good one. Moving too quickly or expecting the proper response too soon could frighten your calf and cause problems. Use a showstick to begin moving the feet into position. Practice
with a show halter so the calf gets accustomed to the chain under its chin. Begin tying your calf with its head held high – this will help you in the show ring. Start with 15 minute sessions and work your way up to an hour. If you have a blow dryer, use it on your calf – begin with short sessions and work up to blowing the whole calf. Expose
your calf to noise, and other people if possible. Ask a friend to walk up to your calf from random angles and touch it; this will pay off in the show ring as the judge comes up to
your calf because the it will already be accustomed to strangers approaching. If you have a set of clippers, get your calf used to them as well. A good feeding program is essential to success in the show ring. Visit with your local feed store and vet to see what feeds other breeders utilize in your area. There are many pre-mixed feeds on the market for all types of cattle, or you can prepare your own mix. Remember to introduce new feeds slowly, to avoid digestive upset. Different individuals will respond differently to particular feeds, so be sure to watch your cattle carefully to ensure their proper development.
Approximately 30 days before the show, begin washing the calf. This will help calm it down even more. Rinse the calf every day, and only use shampoo once or twice per week. The shampoo will dry out the calf ‘s hair which will not help its overall appearance. Use a good conditioner to keep the hair shiny and healthy looking. For those who have their cattle close and handle them daily, a feeding and fitting program can be started any time. Do plan for a minimum of three months to get them fully prepared, four months would really be better to have them in top show form. Above all, remember to have fun!