About Me

Kentucky, United States
Fourth generation beef producer, wife, mother, 4-H & FFA supporter, agriculture advocate, Christian, WKU alum, love livestock shows, basketball, college football, Dallas Cowboys. All things agriculture.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Daily Routines with Beef Heifer Projects

     The Kentucky Beef Expo is only 5 weeks away, and anyone with consignments to sales or youth planning to exhibit in the junior show should have cattle halter-broke, in the barn, and working hair daily. If you've shown cattle for a while you know what I'm talking about. If you are new to this adventure, you might want to learn about establishing a daily routine with your show heifer.
     First, and most importantly, you need to feed your heifer twice a day, and establish a routine of 12 hours apart if possible. This requires going to the barn before school or work,  a habit of most cattle producers. It will only take a few days before the heifers know the routine. Our son does an outstanding job of going to the barn every morning before school. He fills each heifer's pan with its own ration, and takes pans to each stall. All he has to do is open the door and the heifers go to their stall to eat, and he then halters and ties the heifers. 
     In a perfect world, the heifers would be rinsed each morning, hair combed up and forward, then dried. However, the temperature is often too cold this time of the year and there's not enough time every morning to rinse, brush, and dry, so depending on the day, the heifers are brushed and blown out while they eat. Afternoon is time for walking, rinsing (temperature permitting), or brushing. It's amazing how the animals love the routine and quickly learn where to go.

Blake blow-drying his heifer at the NAILE in November.
      In warm weather, it's best to rinse the heifers each evening, work the hair again, then turn out without drying. This keeps the hair growing, trained, and in good condition. Rinsing is just as it sounds, spraying the heifer with water and not using soap. Daily use of soap or shampoo removes the natural oils of the skin drying the hair and skin, resulting in dull hair and flaking skin.
     It seems that everyone's life is full with places to go and things to do, so it makes it even more important to establish a workable routine to keep the stall area clean of manure and adding new bedding when needed. If your mornings are really busy, make it a habit of cleaning the stalls each night. Depending on your barn or facility, it's helpful to have a wheel barrow to place manure and bedding for easy removal.
     If you are beginning with your first heifer, it's not important to have a blower to dry the hair, or a fan, however, if you want to get one of these items, I would first purchase a fan. A good turbo fan used during the day either on a stand behind the heifer or hanging behind the heifer will keep the heifer cooler during hot summer months and help to retain hair.

A fan on a stand like this is convenient to use behind the heifers at home  and at some shows. Just remember that some shows restrict "butt fans" from being used in the aisles.

     If you or your child is very young or small in stature, having a grooming chute can be helpful for safety and to build confidence of the child. Grooming chutes are great to keep a heifer standing still and from moving from side to side as they can when tied in a stall.
The middle vertical bars can be moved and placed horizontally, to keep a heifer from stepping to either side. These three young fitters have many years of experience and have the bars vertical so they can easily comb and groom the heifer's sides.
     The best part about the daily routine is the bond that is formed between heifer and the child. It is amazing how differently the heifers respond when another person steps in to feed and groom. These steps teach the child responsibility and the rewards of hard work. It doesn't mean that there will always be a banner at the end of a show, but the satisfaction in leading an animal that looks good and acts well as the result of weeks of dedication and work is the first step to one of life's important lessons.

Photograph of fan and stand, used with permission from Bluegrass Show Supply
Other photographs, property of Wanda Quiggins

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