Guide to Showing Beef Cattle - Fitting

Fitting

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Show day is an important day, the day you have been preparing for since you first bought your calf. All of your hard work will soon be put on display in the show ring. Just like clipping your calf at home to highlight its strengths and correct its weaknesses, fitting is the final touch for the ideal look. It is important to practice fitting as much as you can at home to hone your skills so, come show day, you can fit your calf impeccably with fewer errors.

Rule of thumb: Before getting into your show day preparation, be sure to look at the fitting guidelines for each particular show. Regulations can change from state to state, show to show, breed to breed and year to year. You will need to know if adhesives and/or touch up paints are allowed, if it is a fitting show or if it is a blow and go show. It is of utmost importance to carefully read all of the guidelines so you don’t end up in a situation where you could be disqualified after all the hard work you've put in.

For the fitting instructions below, we will assume that the show you are preparing for does allow adhesives and paints. We will also give the instructions as they relate to Weaver Leather products and grooming supplies.


  • Cattle Chute
  • Showbox
  • eZall® Foamer and Total Body Wash Green
  • Blower
  • Show/scotch Comb
  • Roto Brush and Cordless Drill
  • Self Cleaning Slicker Brush
  • 2-Speed or 5-Speed Clippers
  • Blocking or Super Blocking Blade
  • Pig Face Brush
  • Light, Medium or Strong Adhesive
  • Touch Up Paints (Stierwalt ProTouch Paints in White Powder, Base & Final Black, Dark Cherry, Rust, Cinnamon or Fawn; depends on color of calf)
  • Oils (Stierwalt ProPolish, ProPink or ProGloss)
  • Adhesive Remover (Stierwalt ProRefit or ProRemover; eZall® It’s Gone®)
  • Breakdown Brush

Things to Do at the Show

  • Upon arrival and up until show day, you should exercise your calf each day, ideally 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening. Exercise helps keep your calf’s stride right and helps with its overall eating habits. It is even better if you can exercise your calf in the actual show ring to get it used to the surroundings.
  • When it comes to water and feed, you want to make sure to take the same buckets you use at home because they are familiar to your calf. It is important to get your calf to drink water at a show to encourage appetite. Bring different feed and hay options depending on what your calf may need on that particular day. If your show is during the winter, cold cattle on a cold day don’t like to drink much cold water. To take the chill off the water, cover the bucket and let it sit for 12 hours.
  • Temperature and climate can make a difference in how grooming products work. Make sure you have all your supplies in your showbox and that the nozzles on the adhesives and paints aren't clogged. Aerosols tend to work best at a moderate temperature. During winter, you may need to have a bucket heater handy to warm the products. Likewise, during hotter months, make sure you keep the products in a cool, dry place.
  • Look at the class sheet to see what breed, division, weight bracket, age bracket, etc. that you are in. Judges average about two minutes per head per class. To get an idea of how much time you have to fit your calf on show day, count the number of head in all the classes before yours then multiply that by two minutes for the approximate amount of time you have. You will want to give yourself enough time to finish fitting and get to the makeup ring. You should allot at least two hours for your fitting.
  • You may want to watch some of the classes prior to yours to get an idea of what the judge is looking for and how long he or she is spending per calf. It is also a good idea to map out your way to the makeup ring to make sure you give yourself enough time to get there.
  • When it comes to washing your calf on show day, you will need to decide if you’re going to let the calf lay down after you wash it then fit later or if you are going to wash and go straight into fitting. With light-colored cattle like Charolais, white Shorthorns and others, we recommend you go straight to fitting so they don’t get dirty spots or stains.
  • After washing your calf and before putting it in the chute for fitting, it is a good idea to put your show halter on first so it is one less thing you have to do before you go to the makeup ring. This will allow you a little more time for fitting or any last minute touch-ups should you need them.

Prepping the Body Hair

The body hair on your calf is important on show day, so you don’t want it to be too heavy or gummy. Using a light product like ProPolish adds shine to the hair while repelling dust and dirt. Following ProPolish with oils like ProPink or ProGloss is a good idea so any glues or paints that get on the body during fitting can be easily taken off. The overall goal is to get a nice, soft shine that isn’t heavy, oily or greasy. Every calf’s body hair is different, so work with the products prior to your show to find out what works best.

  • Spray ProPolish on the body, making sure NOT to get it on the legs, tail head or flank. Doing so can affect the performance of your adhesives and paints. Comb it in with a scotch comb by brushing against the grain of the hair to work the product in. Use a blower to remove excess product from the hair while working the remaining product down into the hair for lift and pop.
  • Depending on your calf’s hair, follow with ProPink or ProGloss by spraying it on and combing it in. ProGloss is considered a light oil, but it is a little heavier than ProPink. It works great during winter months and is ideal for the belly line, brisket and head. To use ProGloss on the head, spray it on and rub it in with your hand. You can also use ProGloss to shine up your show halter as you rub the head.

Fitting the Tail

The first thing you will be fitting is the tail. The tail is part of the rear quarter, which is an important view in the show ring. As you work on the tail to tease and shape it, be sure to have someone hold it so your calf can’t swish its tail. Also remember to use the appropriate color of paint depending on the color of your calf’s tail.

  • Comb the tail out well, making sure it is free of rats, tangles and knots. The more you comb out the tail during daily care, the fuller and nicer it will look and the less teasing you will have to do. Plus, your calf will get used to you working on its tail and will do less swishing.
  • Using a Blocking or Super Blocking Blade, pre-clip the tail by rounding it into a teardrop shape like you did during clipping at home. Remember not to take too much off; it should rest just below the hocks. Once you tease the hair, it will be the ideal hock length. Also remember not to cut the tail straight across, creating a sharp line.
  • To tease the tail, pull the top layer of hair from behind the tail to the front, lift it up and have someone hold it. The remaining portion is the most important part and what you will be teasing (Figure 13A).
  • Lightly tease this hear up with a show comb (Figure 13B). How much you tease it depends on how big you want the bottom of the tail to look. If you get it too big, it could take away from the muscle shape of the hind quarter.
  • Spray the teased hair with Strong Adhesive and shape it in so it overlaps at the bottom and looks like a teardrop. You will need to alternate spraying and shaping until you get your desired look (Figure 13C). You will not see the inner teardrop when the tail is done, but it is what makes the tail look great.
  • Drop the rest of the hair and comb it out evenly over and around the teardrop. Run your hands down the teardrop and press the hair into the adhesive so it sticks (Figure 13D) then lightly mist it and press again, remembering to spray the back as well. The tail should be narrower at the top and wider at the bottom.
  • You are now done shaping the tail and you will notice it has a white tint to it (Figure 13E). Allow it to dry while someone holds onto the tail so your calf cannot swish and mess it up.
  • Once the tail is dry, you will need to darken the tail up with paint using the same two-step process you did on the legs, tail head and flank. Spray first with Base Black then follow up with Final Black for a show ring-ready tail (Figure 13F).
Figure 13A

Figure 13A

Figure 13D

Figure 13D

Figure 13B

Figure 13B

Figure 13E

Figure 13E

Figure 13C

Figure 13C

Figure 13F

Figure 13F


Fluffing the Legs

Figure 1 - (Fluffed Left) - (Non-Fluffed Right)

Figure 1 - (Fluffed Left) - (Non-Fluffed Right)

Pre-bending the hair up on the legs with a Roto Brush attached to a cordless drill should be done prior to applying any glue. Doing so will allow the adhesive to cover more completely while using less product. This brush should be used to fluff the hair on each leg.

  • If your calf has never had this done to it before, stroke its leg with the brush prior to turning on the drill to get it used to feel.
  • Turn the drill on and go in upward motion up the front, side and back of the legs then back down to let the hair fluff out. A cordless drill works great because it’s easier to switch positions without a cord getting in the way. Hair will be fluffed and you are now ready to pull up the legs. See Figure 1 for the difference between a fluffed and non-fluffed leg.
  • On the front leg, the area between the knee and ankle is important to fluff because it tends to get smashed when the calf lays down.

Pulling Up the Legs

You will want to complete the following steps on each of your calf’s legs to give them time to dry before clipping. If it is raining or really humid, your glue will naturally take longer to dry.

Figure 2

Figure 2

Figure 3 - Front Leg Transition Area

Figure 3 - Front Leg Transition Area

Figure 3 - Black Leg Transition Area

Figure 3 - Black Leg Transition Area

  • To get started, use a show comb to comb the leg hair up and make sure all the hair is loose. Then, using the glue that best fits your skill level and/or your calf’s hair type (Stierwalt Light, Medium or Strong Adhesive), spray short, even sprays of adhesive on the leg, making sure to hold the can far enough away so that the product just drifts on (Figure 2).
  • Alternate spraying and combing up the leg. The quicker you are with getting your comb on the leg after spraying adhesive, the better it will look. From the side view, the hair on the back half of the leg should angle back and up at a 45° angle while the hair on the front half of the leg should angle forward and up at about a 45° angle. Pull directly up on middle of the side to eliminate a definite line. The hair will look like it comes to somewhat of a point on the front of the leg.
  • RULE OF THUMB: SPRAY A LITTLE, COMB A LOT to prevent your adhesive from getting too heavy or gummy. You should always be able to comb the hair without the comb getting stuck. However, combing too much can strip the adhesives and make the hair fall. Likewise, spraying too much can make the hair heavy. Another thing to remember is the stiffer the hair, the more glue it’s going to take.
  • If you get too much adhesive on the calf in a certain area, you will need to stop, comb it out then put a shot of glue back in. If you see teeth marks from the comb, we recommend using the Self Cleaning Slicker Brush to clean up the lines and make the hair look fuller.
  • After applying adhesive, spray on Stierwalt White Powder ProTouch in short even strokes to dust it on, remembering to alternate spraying and coming. White powder adds fullness and dimension to the leg, serves as a great clipping aid (hair clips off sharp and crisp) and helps dry the glue.
  • Be sure to keep the White Powder out of the transition area on each leg. This area connects the fitted hair to the nice, soft body hair (Figure 3). Blending is important, so your fitting will get lighter as you go up the leg.
  • Pulling up the hair and spraying it with adhesive and White Powder will help you make sure each and every hair is standing up to make clipping easier.
  • Once you figure out the right combination of spraying the product on, having the right hold and being able to comb it so it looks fluffy and dry, you are on your way to being a better fitter.

Clipping

Today, with the better hair genetics, you may often have to make the legs match the calf’s body, so soundness, balance and proportion are important. With the variety of products available, along with various clipping methods, you can create the look of more bone structure in your calf. When clipping the legs during fitting, you will be clipping the joints to smooth them up as well as clipping off any stray hairs.

Front Legs

From the side view, the front leg should look like a soft curve. In order to get the nice, soft curve, you will have to push the knee in by clipping it. The back of the front leg should look as straight as possible to give it fullness.

Figure 4 - Before Clipping

Figure 4 - Before Clipping

Figure 4 - After Clipping

Figure 4 - After Clipping

  • Use a Blocking or Super Blocking Blade (depending on your skill level) to clip the legs, remembering to wipe the hair out with a small brush like a Pig Face Brush and oil the blades to keep them working properly. ProGloss works great for oiling blades. You never want to spray the blades with oil and get them right in contact with the hair. Wipe them off first because the oil can get on the leg hair and cause it to fall down. Once the hair falls down, it won’t come back up. Figure 4 shows an image of a front leg before and after it has been clipped.
  • Remember, position is important when clipping, so you will need to get in a comfortable position on your knees that gives you a good perspective and access to the leg. Clip and smooth around the pastern, around and above the dew claw and up the back of the leg to make it look as straight as possible with smooth joints. It is a good idea to back away from the calf or stand up to get a different perspective of the leg and to see areas that need fixed or any additional clipping.
  • Next, move to the front of the front leg and smooth up the knee. Then, clip from the knee up to the shoulder and from the knee down to the pastern. Remember, what you do on the outside of the leg, you should do on the inside of the leg.
  • For someone just getting started in fitting, the left front leg is a good place to begin because it is on the offside of the calf. However, shows are not the place to practice. Practicing at home is highly recommended.

Back Legs

When clipping the back legs, you will need to figure out if the leg needs more bend or flex, if it needs the appearance of more bone, etc. It is important to get the leg soft and some bend into it.

Figure 5 - Before Clipping

Figure 5 - Before Clipping

Figure 5 - After Clipping

Figure 5 - After Clipping

  • One important area to concentrate on is the pastern area. The hair can stick out quite a bit and can make your calf look like its pastern is popping or breaking over. Clip the pastern using a Blocking or Super Blocking Blade to smooth it up by starting low and clipping upward.
  • Next, make a pass at the upper leg to blend it into the flank. Then, tip above the pastern to the upper leg and even it up while still leaving the hair long.
  • As you move to the back of the leg, an area of concern is the hock. Clipping this area is important because everything on the back leg will come to this point and smooth around. Starting down by the dew claw, clip upward to blend and tip the hair on the back of the leg into the hock.
  • Smooth up the joints like you did on the front legs, around the ankle, pastern, hock and side of the hock region around to the front of the leg. Remember, what you do on the outside of the leg, you need to do on the inside of the leg. Remember to be in a position so you can see what you’re doing.
  • Sometimes when you clip the joint areas down, you can clip off a little glue. So, you may have use adhesive and pull the hair back up. Since the hair will now be shorter in these areas, you will probably have better results if you use your Self Cleaning Slicker Brush when alternating spraying and combing. Then, dust it again with White Powder. Figure 5 shows a back leg before and after it has been clipped.

Building the Legs

After clipping, you may need to add more volume to the hair on the front and or back legs by building them up. This can be done by using a combination of Strong Adhesive (or the adhesive strength of your choice) and White Powder ProTouch (Figure 6).

  • You don’t want to spray a whole lot of glue on the hair; instead, you will alternate dusting on the two products until you get the depth and full, solid appearance you want. Remember, it is important to stay out of the transition area of the legs.
  • Get the legs to where the light doesn't shine through them as well, but be sure not to overdo it. Figure 6 shows a picture of legs that have been built up.
Figure 6 - Front Leg

Figure 6 - Front Leg

Figure 6 - Back Leg

Figure 6 - Back Leg


Clipping and Building the Flank

This is an important area for extending the rib back into the flank and tying everything together with a nice, smooth curve. You are either going to work the flank on each side or you’re going to fit it down the middle, depending on what will make your calf look the best. When a calf looks smooth underneath, it will look smoother all over, especially from a profile view.

Figure 7 - Before

Figure 7 - Before

Figure 7 - After

Figure 7 - After

  • Lightly and carefully dust the Strong Adhesive onto the flank area and use the Self Cleaning Slicker Brush to gently pull the hair down. Be aware of several things that can make fitting this area harder: wind, airflow, too much glue and too much pressure.
  • Dust on White Powder to make clipping easier and to help make the flank look deeper.
  • Tip/block the straggly hair on the flank with a Blocking or Super Blocking Blade to get an edge on the underline, making sure it curves up into the flank.
  • Getting too much glue or powder on the flank hair will make it too heavy to fit.
  • Once the flank is clipped and blocked in, you will want to build it by dusting it with White Powder then Strong Adhesive, alternating until you get the desired look to give it some fullness or until you can’t see light through it. What you do on one side of the flank, you will have to do on the other. Figure 7 shows the flank before and after clipping and building.

Clipping and Building the Tail Head

The tail head is important because it is an extension of the back line. You will want to work both sides to get the tail head straight down the middle of the tail and not leaning to one side.

  • Comb the hair upward with your show comb in direction of hair growth. Using Strong Adhesive, alternate dusting it on and combing it in. Be sure to get in close so it doesn't spray other areas of the calf.
  • Feather in any wild hairs using the Self Cleaning Slicker Brush to blend any lines, again spraying and coming.
  • Next, use White Powder and dust it on the tail head toward the back so it doesn't get on the calf, alternating spraying and combing. White Powder helps you see where you need to clip and helps build the tail head.
  • Once you get the hair combed and evened out, let the hair dry then clip it using a Super Blocking Blade, remembering to hold onto the tail. Barely tipping the wild hairs will make the tail head look thicker. Figure 8 shows the tail head before and after clipping.
Figure 8 - Before

Figure 8 - Before

Figure 8 - After

Figure 8 - After


Painting the Legs, Tail Head and Flank

Everybody has a different way or theory about the proper way to use touch-up paints when preparing a calf for the show ring, so we recommend you experiment at home to find the best way that works and is easiest for you. For this manual, we are using a black calf for demonstration purposes.

It is important to note, however, that using paint on a red or brown tinted calf is tricky. Red cattle aren't just red and brown cattle aren't just brown. There are varying shades, so you may have to use a combination of brown and/or red paints to get the perfect match. We offer four different paints for colored cattle, including Stierwalt Dark Cherry, Rust, Cinnamon and Fawn. It is very important that you practice at home, before show day, to find the right blend for your calf. Start by lightly tinting the area first then keep shading over it until you get the right match.

Legs

Fitting black cattle is a two-step process. Using Stierwalt Base Black and Final Black, you will create depth and brightness for a great look on the legs.

Figure 9

Figure 9

Figure 10

Figure 10

  • Using Base Black as your first step, spray it on the leg using short, even strokes to darken it up and cover any areas built up with the White Powder and adhesive. Remember to hold the can just far enough away that the product drifts on for even coverage. Holding the can too close can cause you to get way too much paint on the leg.
  • Base Black has a flat finish and is an extremely dry paint that covers really well and won’t weaken your adhesives. The force from the nozzle allows the product to get down into the hair for the appearance of more depth (Figure 9).
  • The second step in the process, Final Black, is a finishing paint that gives the leg color and brightness. Spray it on in short, even strokes to let it drift on the entire leg and through the transition area until you get the desired color. Paint the feet and dew claws as well to complete the legs for the show ring. Figure 10 shows a finished leg that’s ready for the ring.

Tail Head

Just like the legs, finishing the tail head is a two-step process. Start by spraying Base Black onto the built-up tail head with short, even sprays to cover the white, remembering to hold the can far enough away so the paint drifts on. Follow with Final Black to complete the tail head. Figure 11 shows a finished
tail head.

Flank

Again, using the two-step process, finish out the flank area by spraying Base Black and following with Final Black. Figure 12 shows a picture of a finished flank.

Figure 11

Figure 11

Figure 12

Figure 12


Once you have your fitting complete, you are ready to take your calf to the makeup ring. It is a good idea to take the following items with you for any last minute touchups,
rules allowing:

  • Light oil like ProPink
  • Adhesives
  • Paint
  • Towel or paper towels
  • Water in case your calf needs a list minute fill

Breaking Down Your Calf

One of the most important things after you show is breaking down your calf to remove all of the adhesives and paints you used. Leaving these products in can lead to leg sensitivity, dandruff, dry skin and more.

Figure 14

Figure 14

Figure 15

Figure 15

  • We recommend using gentle products like eZall® It’s Gone® or Stierwalt ProRemover. These oil based liquids work great for effectively breaking down products or for breaking down multiple cattle at once but aren't great for refitting because of the oily residue left behind.
  • If you do, however, need to refit your calf, that means you probably won your class and will be coming back to show again in a final drive for your breed or show. Stierwalt ProRefit works great for this because it leaves no oily residue that can prevent your adhesives and paints from sticking when you start fitting again. Used with the Breakdown Brush, this remover works thoroughly and effectively takes out show day products while keeping your hands cleaner (Figures 14 & 15) It is recommended that you let ProRefit sit on your calf for 5-10 minutes after spraying it on and rubbing in.
  • When breaking down the tail, we suggest doing it as the very last thing. If a calf starts swishing its tail, it can create quite a mess and you will have show day products everywhere.