Make a commitment to show cattle daily hair care!
You (or maybe via financing from your parents) are putting up a big chunk of cash for your show calf, the feed, supplements, show supplies, entry fees, and gas for transportation. It would be flat out wrong to not give your calf every chance you can for it to look it’s best when it hits the show ring!
Yes, it’s true, genetics can play a part in the amount of hair a calf has. But, I truly believe that daily hair and hide care play an even bigger part. I’ve watched it happen over the years with our own cattle.
It’s never too early in the spring to start a regular hair care routine.
This is especially true if you plan to drag your cattle to any jackpots or spring shows. Plus, getting a start on hair care for the spring shows will put you that much farther ahead for the summer shows, whether it be a junior national show or the county fair.
It’s been our experience that we should start our daily hair care routine at least 60 days prior to our target show. (90 days would be even better, but I realize, it’s a huge commitment.). So for our family, our goal is to start daily hair care by mid-April, so we will be ready by mid-late June for our junior national show.
Since our spring shows are well underway by mid-April, it’s usually not too hard to step it up from a “3-4 day/week” hair care routine to a “7 day/week” routine.
Even though we start rinsing, blowing out, combing, and conditioning every day, we still shampoo the cattle only once a week.
Why only once a week?
Even though we typically use a mild livestock shampoo, the soap will strip away some of the natural oil from the hair and hide. If shampoo is applied several times in a week, the hide will become flaky and dry. We could cause a chain reaction of several other hair and hide problems if we’re not paying attention. Plus, with the youngsters at my house, more attention is often paid to sibling water fights than it is to rinsing out shampoo! So I prefer to play it safe by keeping shampoos to a minimum.
I recommend starting your daily routine by blowing out excess dirt and straw FIRST, before even going to the wash rack. This step is often short-cutted by the youngsters at my house. What they don’t realize is that it’s easier to get this excess junk out BEFORE it gets soaked down with water.
Oh well, some days you just have to pick your battles!
After the cattle are thoroughly rinsed, we use a rice root brush to brush the hair forward, while at the same time, flicking out excess water. Some folks will shortcut this step and just use a squeegee to remove excess water, but I insist my kids use the rice brush. The brushing action is one more opportunity to stimulate the hair roots and promote more hair growth!
Side note about rinsing cattle: A friend told me a long time ago about show pig he accidentally sent into shock on a hot summer day. He was working for this guy that had a prized show pig and my friend felt sorry for this little piggy who looked like he was getting pretty warm. After all, my friend was hot and sweaty, and ready for a shower, so he figured the pig would appreciate one, too. He grabbed a hose, ran water through for a minute to make sure it was cold, then totally drenched the little piggy to cool him off. When he went back by the pen again within the hour, the poor pig was dead! The drenching of cold water had sent the pig into shock. My friend felt horrible, to say the least!
So the moral of the story is this: when you are washing your calf on a particular hot (or cold!) day, don’t just dive in and get him soaking wet! Use the “ease into it” technique! I have taught my boys to help their calf adjust slowly to the water by first soaking all the legs, spray the belly and flank area for awhile, spray off their rump (especially if there is poop that needs soak for awhile), spray down their neck, then eventually work up their sides to the top. Key words here: GO SLOW!
Since my kids are young and habits are everything, I have taught them to use this method EVERY day. That way they don’t have to stop and think about whether it’s a really hot or cold day before they start in with the water hose. A “shocking” accident is lot less likely to occur!
If it’s a shampoo day, they still use the “ease into it” technique, but put the foamer on the end of the hose before doing the sides and top of the calf. Then they simply foam back down the legs again and get under the belly. Next, scrub out the dirt with a massage brush.
Time to blow the calf out.
Once the calf has been thoroughly rinsed and brushed out, it’s time to turn on the blowers again. Start at the neck and work back. Hold the blower hose in such a way that it’s pointing forward and slightly tipped up.
Now some folks will want to argue with me here and say that they prefer to start at the back of the calf and move forward that way the water keeps getting blown forward and out. True, but you will be leaving terrible “track marks” in the hair pattern. The hair needs to be thoroughly dry anyhow, so take your time drying and move back slowly. This technique will continue to keep the hair dried out and fluffed up as you go, without leaving blower lines.
Again, go slow.
Make sure the area where you are working is thoroughly dry before you slightly move back to the next area. I like to work vertically up and down the calf’s body, one small section at a time, before slightly moving back. I do the neck, the shoulder and front leg, move to the middle of the body, down under the belly, and so on.
It is especially important to dry the calf out without leaving lines if you are preparing to clip. If the calf is new to the halter and hasn’t been tied much, then it’s ok to introduce the blower a little differently. You could blow out the sides or back for a while before going to the neck area. But in the long run, the habit of starting at the neck and moving back is a good habit to get into!
Once the calf is thoroughly dry (no dampness whatsoever!), we move to the conditioning phase. Now don’t make me yell at you like I do my kids on occasion—get your animal all the way DRY.
Dampness is an enemy to good hide quality, and especially an enemy to the clippers if you are planning to clip!
For a conditioner, there are several good choices on the market. Our favorite is Weaver Livestock’s ProHair because it conditions, helps with hair growth, and we don’t rinse it out. Whichever product you pick, be sure to read the label instructions. Some products should be rinsed out, while others are intended to be left in until your next rinsing appointment.
After we spray on the conditioner, we like to use a wide-range brush to distribute the conditioner throughout the hair coat and down to the hide. The calves LOVE to be brushed all over like this and often end up drooling all over us! This step is also important for building the relationship and trust between the calf and the kid.
The final step: grab the blower hose again.
Turn the blower motor to low, and holding the nozzle at least 8-12 inches away from the hair, lightly blow the conditioner in, not OUT. That’s why we use the low setting on the blower and hold the nozzle a bit further away. Again, start blowing at the neck area and work back—no lines!
Your finished product should be a beautiful fluffy cow and a kid that feels accomplished for a job well done!
If you enjoyed our tips, or have any additional advice, please comment below. We’d love to hear from you so that we know we are provided you with helpful information. (And it would make us feel really good, even if you just took a second to say “hi” so that we know you are reading!) Thanks so much!