There’s 3 main types of cattle shows.
The most common, and one we are most familiar with is where show persons feed, fit and clip their animals over a period of time with the show being the last stage. Some folks show their animal many times, some animals may only be shown a few times.
A youth may purchase a weanling heifer calf and show it for 2 years, then either market it for beef, or place the animal in their breeding herd. Some sales can yield tens of thousands for these calves.
The next type of show is the “blow and show”. Youth often don’t own show clippers, and other fancy equipment. These shows are less complicated for younger kids or those just starting out. They will wash and blow dry their animal, without using a clipper on their hair to adjust them in any way.
The third type of show is more commonly for finished beefs, and is a little newer. It’s called “slick showing” Where all extra hair is clipped, or cattle are in their summer hair coat.
Let’s talk about show/sale preparing cattle a little more.
Cattle are daylight and wind sensitive. Once days are 12 hours long, the animals are stimulated to shed their winter coat. If animals are kept in a dark place to keep daylight hours exposure shorter than 12 hours, helps to keep the winter hair on the animals.
Another way to keep the winter coat on is with cool air and wind. Since wind also stimulates hair growth, it is one way that hair can be kept on animals.
Why would anyone want to do this?
Hair, especially long hair can be cut/ clipped to help make an animal look larger, and cover up flaws. Animals naturally grow hair for winter to have an extra insulating coat. If they are stressed, they may also grow another longer coat called “guard hair”. During especially cold and snowy winters, this hair helps keep the undercoat dry.
Washing an animal is another way to stimulate hair growth. Using soaps can dry out the skin, so rinsing instead of using soap daily helps to manage the hair, without the stress on the skin. Brushing often goes with washing, so that too is a way to stimulate hair.
Some people keep their animals in a “cooler room” during the summer days. They may limit daylight in this space, and use it as a stalling area. They will often let animals out at night so they can exercise freely.
Some breeds of cattle tend to have summer hair regardless of how they are managed. That’s one thing about British White cattle. Some just have a short coat. Even in winter. This trait is connected to their natural fly resistance, fertility, and fat layer.
Feeding show animals may begin a few weeks to several months before a show. Depending on the goals and time. Setting an animal up to be gaining weight and growing to their genetic potential is helpful in having naturally fleshed show cattle.
While in a grassfed class, the animals haven’t been pushed hard in the same way that a grain fed animal may have been. The end result should look pretty similar. The timing may be a little different. If preparing your animal for a sale, you may also consider getting the feeding plan going months before the sale. Cattle don’t gain weight over night. It takes time. Make all feed changes slow, over at least 10 days before building the amount you give. This can avoid any gut upset, which can set animals back.
Depending what your goals are, it’s often a good idea to halter train your animal before you get busy feeding them to gain quickly. As they get bigger, they may also become frisky and more challenging to train. Basic halter training can make the finish training later much easier and safer for the animal.
Teaching them to tie is the most important step of halter training. If they learn to be tied, they also learn they cannot get away from the rope. Never leave an animal unattended when halter training. If they get stuck they can hurt themselves.
I always recommend to keep cattle in a corral or pen when training. Once you can lead them around in a pen, then lead them in and out of doorways, where cattle can tend to want to bolt. Once they are comfortable with doorways, move to gates they would normally roam free through. These simple tests can help you stay collected and teach them that the should respect you as their leader, even in places they wish to play.
You don’t want to be the one in the ring with the unruly animal that has never been lead anywhere but a simple pen/ corral.
Don’t be ashamed if you need to use a snap in nose lead. This tool is good for bulls you do not wish to place a permanent ring in their nose. Using a 2′ rope with a snap is sufficient for the nose lead. Only bump the nose if the animal is out of control. Their nose is quite sensitive, and they tend to take the lightest bump to get their attention.
Using a rope halter for teaching them to lead is a great asset. Tie halter is fine for stalling. Some tie halters have a metal ring on the bottom, or have a chin chain. These are not show halters. Neither should be used in a show ring.
A show halter is leather. It has 3 simple parts. The adjustable part that goes up behind the ears, the nose band, and the chin chain. If an animal is very sensitive, you can wrap the chin chain in vet wrap to soften it. This will maintain it’s flexibility. No other halter should be used in a show ring. (see image below.)
As I’m not a professional fitter, I keep a simple tool box of clippers and brushes.
I have a sheep shear for roughing out animals and body clipping. This clipper leaves 1/4-1/2″ of hair. It doesn’t usually leave clipper lines like a cow clipper can. I do have a cow clipper. It does shear shorter than the sheep shear. For long hair animals, it can clog up quicker. It is good for clipping heads and other rough out clipping.
Smaller clippers come in many variety’s and some have guards or changeable heads to help you not clip too short. It’s always easier to take more off. Putting hair back is something I haven’t accomplished.
Using these for blending, and taking small amounts off to correct flaws, or get to small spaces is helpful for these small clippers.
Another method I haven’t yet tried is the flaming method. It is said they can rough out an animal in less than half the time using a propane flame. Being very careful to stay 8-12″ away from the animal is critical. If you don’t like the smell of singed hair, this method might not be for you. Done correctly this method is actually less stressful to the animal, and you can do a lot with the method.
It’s a good plan to rough clip your animals 2-4 weeks before a show also. This gives time to fix any mistakes, and you will have less to do right before a show. Finish clipping can be done that last week before the show, and right up to show day if you have a steady hand!
There’s a comb you need to have in your pocket in the ring. It’s part of your show attire. They are a single or dual length comb that has a perpendicular handle. These are quite handy when fitting also.
A curry Comb and a couple bristle brushes are nice for brushing out dirt, washing, and helping to train hair to lay forward. There may be 4-5 different brushes in your tool box. With white cattle, a couple very clean ones are handy.
SHOW STICK! This is one of the most important tools you will carry when you go in the ring. A show stick in needed for 3 things. 1, adjusting the feet. 2, it’s your STOP sign if needed. bump the nose if you need to with the handle, or wave it in front of the nose. 3, it’s your cow petting tool. We don’t pet our animals in the ring with our hands. We may scratch their belly to help keep their back straight, or use it to ask them to put their tail down.
A blow drier or cattle blower is used to not only dry the animal after washing, but also to train the hair to lay perpendicular to the ground pointing toward the nose on the bulk of the animal. Trained hair is easier to clip. Training hair is a slow process, and should be worked on daily at least a few weeks before a show.
We keep a wash bucket for our soap, small rag, wash brush, and comb, at the ready for washing. Some people use a hose with one of those attachments for applying soap. I like a dish soap bottle. And Wisk detergent for our white animals. 1 or 2 washes is enough to get them quite white. Brush yellowed hair both directions to get stains out. Always start washing from the top down, but soap from bottom up so the lower parts have time to soak longer. Don’t forget the tail switch and to use a wet rag to clean the ears.
Sprays and Adhesives:
It’s not required to use any adhesives or sprays that do a lot of things on the hair, but it’s handy to know they exist. Some will use things to fluff the leg hair, or other areas, but if the hair is trained well, it may not be all that big a deal. There’s companies that sell a ton of stuff you can put in the hair. That’s up to you to learn about, and decide what’s best for you.
Other show equipment:
Bedding, typically wood shavings, manure scoop, fork, feed buckets, stall frame, fans, grooming chute, tack box, mat for front of stall, water filter and buckets,
- select animals and backups. 2-6 months ahead
- start halter training, asap
- send in entry data
- Start feeding for show/sale, soon after selection
- fit your animal, in the weeks before the show/sale
- finish clipping in the last week before the show/sale
- pack your toolbox and feed to travel
- Have all vet work in order if needed
- head to your event. have a great time!
People ask me all the time about our process. As we’ve got over 30 years experience with show cattle, and have never been professionals. I can say I do things a little different than most. But I have summarized the best practices for new and lesser experienced folks. We want to see you have a great time, and succeed. Hailey and I show for fun. We don’t take it that serious. But when we are showing, we seriously are going to have fun.
Showing aren’t always just about winning. Personal goals can be even more important. Want to show with us? Get serious, and get in touch!
I will briefly touch on the subject. While many of the above practices for a show may be relative for a sale, there’s a few more key things that should happen BEFORE you send in your consignment.
Preparing cattle for a sale takes many months of preparations.
About 4-6 weeks before the sale a catalog is often published, the consignments are usually in at least a few weeks to a month before that. You will surely want your animal looking it’s best, and from the best angle in that first impression image in that catalog. RIGHT?
Because of this, you may consider offering your cattle better pasture, or whatever your program uses 4-6 months before the sale. Having the animals all cleaned up, and with a grand non-distracting background tells a story to your potential buyers.
Taking photos in the sunshine after a rain, when animals are dry and clean can be one way to get them looking great, with a rich green grass, and the bright sky. Another way is on a day with high clouds so no shadows are shown. Back drops of gates with empty pasture behind, or bales stacked to help the potential buyers see the size, and scale of your animal. You might consider using wood shavings so people can see their feet. In deep straw, their feet can be too hidden.
Video clips are great, but definitely consider a professional to capture the footage. There’s an art to that, which I fully admire! Done right, videos are the way to go. A bad video is worse than no video.
Videos are best done closer to the sale. The photos for the catalog are printed before videos need to be shot. Every day the animals should look better than their picture or video right up to the sale.
Make sure animals are CLEAN for your imaging. Rough out clipped is even better. Animals that have dirty tails splattered all over their rear isn’t all that attractive.
The angle you photograph is important. The angle this cow is photo’d is very good. she should have had her head up. Her feet in back are well positioned. her front far foot should have been more forward. Which she would have likely corrected when she put her head up. The post in the background is distracting.
In the previous photo, the cows in the background are distracting. and the angle of the photo is NOT sale catalog quality. It does show the bulls scale. but the side profile is preferred.
I hope these tips are helpful as you prepare cattle for a sale. See future posts about more tips for the process of preparing for a sale.