If you’re a newcomer at showing cattle, it’s sometimes a mystery as to why certain things are done a certain way.  Especially cattle clipping!

Clipping your show steer or heifer is an important part of the process for preparing for show day. 

Before we get into the how’s and why’s of clipping, let’s first touch on the safety aspect of clipping.  We need to consider our own safety as well as the safety of the animal in order to prevent them from injuring themselves or stepping on us.   

Your show calf needs to be secured in some kind of a head catch before clipping. Later on, when you have them super broke and used to the clipper blades, you will likely be able to just tie their head up in the stall and get to work, but for the first few clipping sessions, get them well-secured.  This could be a regular working chute with removable sides, or a portable grooming/fitting chute. 

A chute will prevent the animal from moving around from side to side and stepping on top of you while you are clipping.

It’s very important to have the head appropriately tied.  I normally tie the calf with only his nose sticking through the head catch because they will typically stand more comfortably and quietly.  I only lead them forward and catch the entire head when I’m ready to remove the halter and shave their head and face, which is nearly the last step in the clipping process. 

(Newbie tip:  Don’t dive in and clip their face first!  They won’t be settled down yet and the sound of the noisy clipper blades might totally freak them out!)

I’ve heard Kirk Stierwalt preach a little motto to my kids at fitting clinics: 

“A happy head is a happy calf! “

Take the time to get the calf’s head adjusted right in the fitting chute so that the animal won’t fuss and fight the chute.

Here’s a great overview video by Kirk, demonstrating how to tie a calf’s head in the chute.  Notice the double-tie halter.  My kids recently got one of these and is an awesome tool.  Sure beats the heck out of putting on two halters (one inside out) in order to get the head tied just right!

Another thing to keep in mind with regards to safety is that unless you have a cordless set of clippers, you will be dealing with cords and electricity.  After all, this is a power tool!

Make sure the cords are appropriately placed and plugged in.  We don’t want you or the animal to get an electrical shock or to trip over a cord and take a nose dive!

My boys won a set of cordless clippers this past year and I have to admit….I am totally sold on using cordless!  They are so handy!  They are surprisingly lightweight, so very easy for a kid to use.  Plus, we have been to more than one show this year where the breakers were blown and everyone was standing around looking at each other.  It’s great to have a pair of cordless clippers because after all, the show must go on!  (That is, as long as someone remembers to put them on the charger!)

The goal of clipping is to present your show steer or heifer as best as possible to the judge on show day. 

We want to increase the positive attributes and strengthen the animal in any weak areas. A few examples include increasing the appearance of the animal’s width and depth, create or improve angularity, and improve the visual balance of the animal from the profile.

Tasks we might do to accomplish this might include:

    • clip the top line to straighten it out
    • Clip the underline to straighten it out
    • Remove excess hair from shoulders and neck area
    • Remove excess hair and whiskers from the face
    • Trim, or tip,  the outer layer of the hair, called the guard hairs, for a smoother, cleaner look
  • Clip the tail hair tighter in order to visually widen the calf at the rear view

There are several types of clippers and clipper blades you can use to get the job done, and each has their own special use.

Again, I’ll refer you to Kirk Stierwalt video on how to choose the appropriate clippers and blades:

In summary, the main reason we clip cattle is to present them on show day in such a way that we have improved their positive attributes and downplayed their weak points.  This is in order to give us the greatest eye appeal and, hopefully, catch the judges attention!

Do you have any specific questions about clipping?  Please comment below and we will get your questions addressed in an upcoming blog post.  If you found this post helpful, please give us a “thanks” by mentioning it in the comments below–we would love to have your feedback!

Click HERE to get a PDF copy of this post for future reference!

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