After selecting your calf for an upcoming show season, it is important to start working with it immediately, which includes halter breaking if it hasn't already been done. Once halter breaking is complete, training and conditioning the hair should become part of your daily routine. Your calf will not only get used to you and vice versa, but the more you work the hair, the better pop and bloom it will have come show time. If you don’t have the hair trained properly, you’re not going to get it clipped properly.
If you are new to showing cattle, we recommend seeking advice and help from your 4-H adviser, Ag teacher, a breeder, a friend who shows or others in the industry. Not everyone’s methods may be the same, so it’s important to listen to your mentors, read and learn as much as you can and find the best way that works for you.
Rule of Thumb: Showing cattle requires a lot of dedication, time and effort. The more time you put into your preparation, the more you will get out of it. Shows are not won in the ring; they are won at home through all the effort you put in each day.
- Fluffer Comb
- Massage Brush
- Rope Halter
- Shedding Comb
- Show Me Grooming Brush
- Foaming Shampoo & Foamer
- Spray Bottle
- Stierwalt ProCharge
- Stierwalt ProPolish
- Sweat Scraper
- Cattle Grooming Chute
Rinsing, Washing and Drying
To stimulate hair growth, it is common practice to rinse and blow-dry a calf twice each day, usually morning and night. Running cold water on your cattle creates circulation and promotes stimulation for hair growth. As part of your rinsing routine, wash your calf once or twice a week using a mild foaming shampoo with conditioning properties according to instructions. These type of shampoos, like eZall® Total Body Wash Green, work well because the foaming action lifts away dust and dirt quickly and easily without any or much scrubbing. Caked on dirt and mud may require the use of a massage brush that will also stimulate the hair and hide.
When done washing, follow the same steps for daily rinsing below:
- After rinsing your calf, tie it in a cattle grooming chute to make grooming easier. Chutes can be scary places for a young calf, so be sure to perform regular tying and chute training to get your calf used to standing for longer periods of time and having its movement restricted.
- Remove excess water by using a sweat scraper in the direction of hair growth.
- Once excess water is removed, brush hair downward with your fluffer comb, as shown in Figure 1, to eliminate any kinks, curls or waves.
- Using a blower and fluffer comb to dry your calf and help train the hair, blow hair from back to front while combing it forward and up as shown in Figure 2. This will start to help the hair stand up to get the desired show ring pop and bloom. When using a blower, it is important to use a slow, sweeping movement to help prevent lines in your calf’s hair.
- When your calf is dry, spray on conditioner and/or hair polish while blowing it in, once again remembering to blow forward and up. We recommend mixing one part Stierwalt ProCharge Reconditioning Liquid to three parts Stierwalt ProPolish for the perfect combination of nourishing, restoring and protective properties.
- After you have blown in the conditioning and protective products, use your fluffer comb to comb the product into the hair, making sure to follow the same direction as in Step 4.
It is important to note, however, that rinsing during colder months may not be possible depending on your facility. If, for example, you do not have a heated barn and a blower and it is under 40°, it may not be safe to bathe your calf. During this time, you can still train the hair by blowing in conditioner and/or polish and combing it as demonstrated in Figure 2.
About three to four months prior to show season, usually around March or April, you will want to begin a daily shedding regimen on your calf. Removing dead hair from the undercoat will promote the growth of new, healthy hair. There are a variety of shedding tools on the market, and again, it is a matter of what works best for you and on your calf’s hair.
- Using your shedding tool of choice, brush your calf’s entire body in the direction of hair growth to remove the dead hair. Brushing against the direction of hair growth with a sharp tool could damage or remove healthy hair.
- Some people prefer an effective tool like the Weaver Shedding Comb, Figure 3, that pulls out the dead hair without getting caught in or removing healthy hair.
- Others prefer a brush like the Show Me Grooming Brush, Figure 4, with a hacksaw type blade that’s great for shedding. This type of brush, however, is extremely sharp and children should only use this under adult supervision.
- Continue your daily rinsing/washing and drying routine during and after shedding and throughout show season.