Ah, spring. Pitchers are pitching. Planters are planting. And, with any luck, the mosquitos aren’t out yet. The turn of the seasons means trading in frozen water tanks for waterlogged pastures.
But in the cattle show world, spring is the right time to work hard on hair. Diligent spring hair care sets the foundation for summer hair growth. Fighting muddy hair now is better than fighting dead hair later.
Spring is especially important because weather changes impact skin and hair. Early spring is a time when skin fungus and parasites start to show up or continue their wrath. In many places, frequent rains on waterlogged soils make clean hair almost impossible. The long and fluffy winter hair starts to die and fall out. This means hard work is in order to get calves summer ready.
Taking good care of your steer or heifer’s skin and hair now will help the animal be in top hair shape for the fair season. More hair growth helps those with skilled hands hide flaws or accentuate strengths.
Wet and cold weather can impact a steer or heifer’s skin the same way it can make our skin dry and scratchy. As the weather turns, parasites can wreak havoc on healthy skin. It’s common to see cattle scratching or missing patches of hair. One way to prevent this is by using a pour-on dewormer like Ivermectin. This product takes care of lice, mange, flies, and internal parasites. If you think you might be struggling with warts or ringworm, check out our article “Beat the Winter Blues.” Regardless of the culprit, be vigilant to skin concerns and nip them in the bud should they arise.
Another key to spring hair care is keeping cattle clean.
Of course, Mother Nature has a say in it, but keeping bedding and lot areas clean goes a long way. Try to keep mud and manure from matting in calves’ hair. If hair does become matted, a little elbow grease and a curry comb are in order. It’s a lot easier to brush out a little mud consistently than to let it build up and try to get out a season’s worth at once. We would like to share a great bedding tip with you. If you have light-colored calves, use light-colored bedding to avoid staining.
Dead hair in the dead of summer is a dead giveaway for steers and heifers that don’t have their hair worked enough. It might be tempting to try to hang on to those precious hairs. As soon as black hair turns red, though, it’s time to get it out so new, strong, correct-colored hair can grow through.
There are a lot of ways to get the job done. One straightforward way is to slick shear the steer or heifer so there isn’t any hair left. Then the hard work of regrowing hair begins with daily hair care and time spent under fans or in a cooler.
Another way to solve the dead-hair problem is through a ton of elbow grease. Daily brushing with a rice root brush helps pull the dead hair out. Make sure you’re brushing the hair forward toward the ears and cover the whole body. This graphic illustrates the direction you should brush the hair.
Frequent washing with a moisturizing shampoo can help, too. We recommend only washing a steer or heifer once or twice a week to prevent dry skin. If you have time to brush the steer or heifer dry after washing you can kill two birds with one stone. Just make sure that the animal is completely dry before turning it back outside.
One important thing to keep in mind is that cattle need to get hot in order to really shed that dead hair.
Don’t put cattle in coolers or under fans until they’ve had time to experience heat and that hair has had time to die off. The appropriate time to kick in these cooling tools is when the dead hair is mostly gone. You can speed along the shedding process with the Weaver Shedding Comb.
Spring preparation and hard work can build a hair foundation that sets you up for summer success. It’s important to watch for parasites, keep hair clean, and work to stay ahead of dead hair. And, as the weather warms up, what better place is there to be than in the barn?