GROOMING CATTLE FOR SHOW: A BEGINNER’S GUIDE
Tips from Andis Cattle Grooming Expert, Kirk Steirwalt
Andis’ National Cattle Grooming Training Advisor, Kirk Stierwalt, shares tips and tricks for beginners, which can also serve as reminders for seasoned cattle groomers.
The first step in the grooming process is forming a relationship with the calf. The animal must trust you in order to cooperate with you. Spending time with the steer while he or she is still young is the best way to gain his or her trust. As show dates approach, daily contact, including feeding and petting, is necessary to strengthen the bond.
Pay attention to any unique motions or behaviors of the animal. It’s important to know how their body parts function when you’re washing or clipping. If you understand reactions and can anticipate sudden movements, you will avoid being surprised and possibly making a mistake while clipping.
Rinse and Dry
Before rinsing, blow dry any dirt or dust off of the animal’s fur. For a calf’s very first shower, it’s a good idea to tie him or her to a secure fence or post, as the calf may be scared.
To rinse, turn the water on slowly and begin at a low pressure, or fold the hose to restrict the flow, to avoid scaring the animal. Approach the front shoulders first, and run the end of the hose along the back to acquaint the calf with how the water feels on his or her body. Gradually increase water pressure as the calf becomes more comfortable. Use shampoo sparingly, no more than once a week; too much shampoo can cause the fur to fall out. Conditioner can be used daily, especially just before a show.
Rinsing and blow drying daily, especially in the summer months, trains the fur to stay in place and allows it to grow faster.
Comb the Hair
Begin combing at a 45° downward angle from the back of the steer to the front. Next, comb horizontally from the back to the front, and lastly, comb upward at a 45° angle from the back to the front. Combing should be a daily task, if possible.
Know your Steer
There are vast differences in grooming among breeds, but most fall into one of two categories: long-haired or short-haired. Long-haired breeds are usually shown with the hair combed or brushed upward. Short-haired breeds are usually shown with the hair brushed down for a slick, more natural look.
Clipping a heifer is a bit different than clipping a steer. In order to make a heifer look more feminine, leave a bit more hair on the top and the legs to give both areas more curvature. When clipping a steer, you want him to look more straight and stout.
Remember that no animal is perfect. Knowing which areas where the animal has a fault or weakness is important before clipping. Then, you can intentionally mask any imperfections as best as possible or you can enhance a particular feature that may make the animal stand out. For example, if the animal is too thin in a certain area, you could work the fur to appear thicker in that spot.
Choose the Right Tools
The key to clipping is having a good clipper and quality blades. Kirk recommends using Andis’ AGC Super 2 Speed clipper or the Excel 5-Speed. “The AGC Super 2 Speed clipper is the handiest clipper,” notes Kirk. “It’s a quality clipper that’s stood the test of time. I can count on it to get the job done. I recommend it to everyone.“When I prefer using a smaller clipper, I go for the Excel 5-Speed. I like the Excel because of the rubber grips on the sides of the clipper, and because even though it’s small, it still delivers the same power as the AGC Super 2 Speed.”
Kirk also recommends two blades, The Super Blocking Blade and the Medium Blending Blade for shaping blocking, sculpting, tipping, topping, and gluing and painting for show day preparation. “The Super Blocking Blade and the Medium Blending blade are the two necessary blades for clipping,” says Kirk. “The Super Blocking Blade offers the sharpest tip available for a more precise cut. For beginners, I recommend the Andis Blocking Blade, which is not as sensitive and aggressive as the Super Blocking Blade.”
Shape and Clip
Make sure that your blades are sharp for that crisp cut edge on the hair. Start clipping on the off side first and the show side last. Remember to slow down your clipping and focus on blending. When shaping or sculpturing, it is better to clip a little off at a time and make more passes than clipping off a lot in one pass.
Keep in mind that you want the calf’s side profile to look rectangular. Clip the high spots on the calf first, clipping hair to the lowest length. Blend in the rest of the low points. The hair on the head of the calf should be completely shaved off. Continue down between the front legs, trimming off all the hair. Blend the brisket to the stomach on the back of the front legs. Shave the hair completely off the sheath of the calf. Shave with the grain of the hair to smooth and square off the back of the rear section of the calf. To make the tail look square, shave from the top of the twist to the tail head.
Clean your Clippers
Be sure to oil your clippers after every use and before storing. Properly maintained clippers won’t heat up while you are using them, preventing discomfort for the calf. It is also important to remove hair clippings from the blade after each use to prevent rust and dulling from the moisture and dust particles the fur contains.
General Maintenance Reminders
Clip your calf once a month and brush daily to maintain a healthy coat. Learn about proper nutrition, hoof care and hair care. Get to know the animal better as he or she grows, so you can continually learn to properly care for the animal.
About Kirk Stierwalt
Kirk Stierwalt is an accomplished cattle fitter, educator, judge, and leader in the show cattle industry. In the past 33 years he has won numerous awards at national and international shows. Kirk contributes his knowledge through active participation in 4-H and FFA programs conducting clinics, seminars and demonstrations for young people and cattle families across Canada and the United States. Kirk and his wife Julie have two children, Ky and Kyra, and reside in Leedey, Oklahoma, where they run a 125 heard cattle operation on their family ranch. For more information about Kirk Stierwalt and upcoming events, please visit: http://www.kirkstierwalt.com.