Looking at the calendar, there are not many available weekends before we head to the Ohio Beef Expo. We have 2 babies that need to be halter broken and a bull that needs to be reminded of his manners.
We haven't had a lot of snow this winter, but we are sure dealing with some nasty ice. We will get a few inches of snow and then the weather warms up. This is causing the top layer to melt and then re-freeze every couple of days. We now have a very solid ice rink just about anywhere you step. We are getting some fresh snow today, so it is providing a little bit of traction. We are running out of time, so halter breaking will begin even if the weather isn't ideal.
Everyone has their "proven" method for halter breaking, but this is a way that works well for us. The first step is to put the halters on the calves and let them drag them around for a few days. This gets them used to the feel of the halter and when the lead is stepped on, it trains them to give to the pressure. We then follow up with tying them in the barn for about 30 minutes or so. They fight like the dickens, but eventually learn to give to the halter. We will repeat this process for several days.
Next is tractor time. Daniel has a bad back that we are trying to save from surgery. Even though these cows are little, they can still pack a punch. While they may try to throw Daniel around, they quickly learn that they are no match for the tractor. Just be sure to go slowly and be very careful that the lead lines do not get tangled in anything.
After a few laps around the hay field most of the calves are pretty well halter broken. One trip around our hay field is a half mile. Not only is this great exercise and a great way to build muscle, it also gets all the fight out of them. We try to repeat this process for a couple of days. We have had some of our calves finished in one night. Others take a little longer, but usually after a couple of days they are completely halter broke.
It is always interesting to see the personality differences of each calf. Some instantly figure out the pull and give that is necessary to be led. Others....well, they think they can dig in and their stubborness will win against the tractor. You can see in the picture above that Royal is still not ready to give it up.
The next step is the show stick. The judge will have a hard time seeing the assets of your calf if it will not stand still or in the proper position. Start by rubbing the show stick on the legs to desensitize the calf. Be prepared...they may jump straight up in the air. After a while they will adjust to the feeling of the show stick and not mind it so much. Then work with pushing and pulling the feet into the proper position so that they get comfortable with the correct set up. Eventually, you want to be able to walk your calf into the correct position without much use of the show stick. Once they are in the proper position, begin to rub the belly or brisket with the show stick. This relaxes the calf and keeps them comfortable in that position.
We halter broke Mitchell last year as a young calf. He is much bigger and stronger now, and sometimes thinks that he is in control. We try to walk him or work him on the tractor every so often just to remind him who is boss. He still needs some work with the show stick, but he shouldn't be too bad. The biggest problem that we are having with Mitchell right now is that he doesn't like strangers. He is fine around us, but new people make him a little anxious. He had better get over this because he is going to be around a ton of strangers at the Beef Expo.
Annabelle is our dream cow. She has the personality of a puppy dog and is so easy to work with. In the picture above, Walker was able to walk her in and stop her exactly as you see her there. He did not have to use the show stick at all to adjust her. He is just rubbing her to keep her from moving. If we could just get every calf to do that, we would have it made.
An animal that is halter broke is an asset in the ring. We all work so hard to produce the best cows possible, but we also need to be able to exhibit those qualities. A calm and controlled animal allows the judge, and others, to focus on the qualities of the calf.
Hello! I am Heather... the city girl turned mom to manure loving country boys. My husband and I both grew up in the city, but spent weekends visiting grandparents in the country. We are first generation farmers who learn best by almost always doing things the hard way. I hope you enjoy following along with our adventures down on the farm.