Feeding Program

In preparing a feed program for an animal for show or sale you should first determine what its feed requirements will be from the list of priorities. Then look at its present fleshing conditions and compare this to the time you have to your goal date.

If it’s a mature animal in good flesh and you have lots of time you won’t have to push as hard.

Remember it will take at least 30-45 days on feed to see any appreciable gain. To do a proper job you need a minimum of 60-75 days. If the animal is in good flesh you can carry them on a good coarse ration, minerals and good roughage .

If they need pushing you will need a high energy ration. You must be very careful however to watch the animal carefully on this ration. Some are good converters and will get fat very easily. If you see this happening you might have to ease off on the amount of ration fed.

To achieve a bloom on the hair coat look for a coarse ration with an oilseed base protein supplement like soya bean meal. Some minerals and feed additive also help hair growth .A good hair coat comes from continuous brushing, clean bedding and a general good management practice are essential. During the feeding period always watch for lice on the animal, and take immediate steps to eradicate them. This will prevent loss of hair in patches as a result of animals scratching and rubbing on posts. Avoid sharp edges on gates and fences.

“A small amount often is better than a large amount once”

Feeding for the Show

Three days before you move, cut the grain ration in half and feed hay free choice. This will harden the manure up so they won’t get dirty travelling. Cut the water off 2 hours before moving because they travel easier when their stomach isn’t full.

Once at the show give them hay and water on arrival. Don’t let them drink all the water they want, if they’re thirsty they could drink so much it would make the manure scoury. Give an adult about 3 1/2 gallons and young cattle 1 ½ gallons. Then fill them up with hay. If for instance you get in during the morning or afternoon, water and give them hay and resume their normal grain ration at night.

If you’re showing cattle all summer they get used to travelling . You can then cut the grain ration by half for three feedings prior to moving and increase the hay.

Breaking in and Haltering

TRUST is the most important factor here to end up with a quiet, well trained animal. Most cattle have the temperament for achieving this, but some are just too scatty, and probably shouldn’t be bred with, let alone broken in.

Trust means having them not afraid of you – ideally being able to touch them all over in the paddock, prior to getting them in the yards. We will often use a small amount of hard feed or hay for this after they have been weaned, to minimise the setback of weaning as well as getting them to run to you when they see you coming. Standing by the feed bucket initially for a few days, then leaning across and trying to scratch them on the neck will take another few days. By 2-4 weeks, you will be scratching most animals over most of their body.

You may want to swap your hand for a comb at some time, as this will be used later, but most of the time you will scratch them. Once you are at this stage, you can get them in the yards and continue the process.

Steps to Breaking them in:

1) In the crush – Get them in the crush and spend some time with them scratching them all over again and talking to them. This may be five minutes for some animals or may be as much as a couple of 2-3 hour sessions over a few days. Try to keep it as a routine.

2) Handling the head – A bit of time spent here will make your life so much easier down the track with getting halters on and off and nose dogs in and out. Start by scratching them around the head and ears is a good place to start and then down the head from there. As they move their head away or down, it is extremely important to follow their head and keep your hand on it. Once they have stopped moving their head, you can then take your hand away. You need to instigate the removal of your hand so that you are always in control. If at any stage they feel they can throw their head around and you take your hand away, this will simply reinforce this behaviour in future.

The next step here is to touch them over the muzzle and nostrils. Getting them used to handling here will help when it comes time to get nose dogs in. Then we introduce the halter. Use a nylon one that slips easily, rather than rope. We let them sniff the halter and then we let it hang over their head in a similar way to the way our hand was and follow their head with it and pull it away once their head is still.

Halter Making:

Use appropriate size rope for animal, 12mm for calves, 14 for heifers/young bulls and 16mm for cows/bigger bulls.

(a)    NB the nose band length is the critical decision as all else adjusts.

(b)    Rope should be on left side

(c)    Halter should tighten under the jaw not on the head etc.

(d)    The rope must run through two loops.

What Halter:

(a)    Choose a halter to suit the animals head.

(b)    A long face will need to be broken with a thick nose band.

(c)    Always tie with a quick release knot but not in a way the animal can chew it open.

(d)    Use a heavy nylon for training.

(e)    Use a leather if possible for showing, for safety tie with a nylon halter in the holding area.

(f)     Breaking halter can be used for training.

Once they are used to the halter itself, place it on their head and take it off again after a minute. Do this a few times to get them used to this process and further handling around the head.

3) Tying them up – We then have to take the plunge and let them out of the crush with the halter on. Initially aim to get them to the nearest secure post to tie them up. In general at this early stage, you won’t be able to pull them around (a recently weaned animal will be at least 200kg – much bigger than you) so let them take themselves to a post and then secure them

The first few times they are tied up they will do anything from a few pulls and then stand there and sulk, to full on thrashing around. Remember to always tie them up low (knee hight or below) on the post in case they throw themselves on the ground. Animals have choked/broken their own necks and died when thrashing around while tied up too high. Don’t bother trying to feed them or comb/scratch them until they are more settled – this may take five minutes to a few days. Don’t leave your animal too long unattended while tied up.

The benefit of having a nylon or low friction halter is at this particular stage – when they pull back, the halter tightens and it is uncomfortable. When they stop pulling, the halter loosens and they are rewarded for relaxing. Once they appear more settled we start to comb them & scratch them all over so that they start to associate this pleasurable experience with being tied up. We then feed them something special – A small amount of ration for example as a reward.

4)The Nose Dogs (Snaffels) – These can be used on bull calves prior to them getting a nose ring put in, but a nose ring is much easier. Initially this should only be done in the crush, once you have their halter on and some control of their head. Remember that you have already handled them around the head and muzzle and so this shouldn’t be too much of a shock. Initially leave them in without a lead attached – some use light weight aluminium nose dogs and later progress to the heavier brass.

Remember to never fight an animal to get something done – like putting nose dogs in. Always set the situation up so that you have a very good chance of achieving your goal, otherwise, don’t even try. The reason being if you fail, it will simply reinforce to the animal that they can overpower you if they muck up, and that behaviour will escalate.

Start to get them used to attaching a lead and detaching a lead to the nose dog prior to leading them around. Let them eat with the nose dog (plus or minus the lead) still in.

5) Walking them on lead – Now you will be ready for the big adventure – walking them on a lead. Some say to never do this without nose dogs in and therefore nose control, but in the early stages of leading, we prefer to do it without nose dogs. By this stage they are used to stopping when they meet resistance when pulling back, and they love being scratched in all those favourite areas. These two factors allow you to get control .

One technique is to untie the halter from the post and walk away from the animal to the full extent of the lead. Then give a tug on the lead – as soon as they start to take a step, relax on the lead. When they stop, give another tug. Once they have walked the 5-6 steps to you, gather the lead and stand at their left shoulder facing the same direction as them (this is the position you will eventually lead from) and give them a scratch. These first 5-6 steps may take a minute or so but eventually they get an idea of what is expected – stopping and starting. This is really all they need to know.

Start in as small a yard as possible (5 metres square ideally). If they go silly, don’t try to pull against them from in front (you are not as strong as a post), simply get to their left hand side or behind them and put some backward pressure on the lead – this seems to stop them. Some respond very quickly to sideways pressure on the lead in emergency situations so try tugging them towards you (they turn left) and in a circle until they stop, then relax on the lead. If all else fails, let them take themselves to the nearest post and secure them again, have a break, and start again later.

Our technique is to untie the halter from the post and walk away from the animal to the full extent of the lead. Then give a tug on the lead – as soon as they start to take a step, relax on the lead. When they stop, give another tug. Once they have walked the 5-6 steps to you, gather the lead and stand at their left shoulder facing the same direction as them (this is the position you will eventually lead from) and give them a scratch. These first 5-6 steps may take a minute or so but eventually they get an idea of what is expected – stopping and starting. This is really all they need to know.

An alternative, gradual, method here is to untie them and lead them from one side of a small yard to the other (3-4 meters) with a bucket of feed, water or hay waiting for them. This can be done several times over until they are in control in this restricted environment before walking them greater distances – but still to/for feed or water.

After a few tries, you then place the nose dogs in with lead attached and walk them around with this in. You usually do not need any pressure on this lead but now and then it helps to remind them that it is their – say to bring their head up if they keep pulling it down. The nose dogs will be your emergency hand break down the track – so best not to overuse it and desensitise there nose to it.

6) Walking them out and about – Once they are walking around in circles in your little yard with precision, you need to take them out. Maybe into a larger yard or small paddock initially and eventually all around the place. If you are getting ready to show them you will need to desensitise them against all matter of sights and noises and at home in the house paddock is the best place to start. While you are doing this you are still training them. Surprisingly out here they seem to walk better and have more over trust in you because they are out of their comfort zone  and you are the only familiar thing.

If You Plan to Show

You need to get them used to a show cane, white coats and ribbons (go on, be confident) specifically. Get other people with cattle experience to approach them and put their hands on them – scratching and pleasuring them so that when the judge tries to do the same he/she is not rejected with a kick.

Some Extra Tips / Advice

Try tying them up high a few times with their head high, once they are not pulling back. This trains them not to pull their head down while you are leading them. When their head is down they are in control. When their head is up, you are in control. Tie the head in a high but still natural position, for 5-10 minutes initially and work up to 30 – 40 minutes. The week before showing practice loading and unloading your animal in the trailer.

♦ Some use feed as rewards while breaking in or leading animals around. We find it simpler to just scratch them and use food as a reward after a session of leading when you have tied them up.

♦ Nothing replaces experience – get in and have a go. You will goof up a few times initially and probably get a few bruises to boot, but you will certainly learn quickly. Attend handlers days or handlers camps – this will be a rapid learning experience.  Ask questions most show people are happy to share their knowledge and experiences.

Preparing the Animal

First know your animals strengths and faults. Determine how to showcase the positive while correcting the negative.

Training Hair:

By brushing the hair repeatedly you can cover up the animals faults. Brush daily to promote hair growth. A good time to work hair is during the morning and evening when it is coolest. During warm days rinsing the animal will cool them and encourage hair growth but don’t let them dry on their own !

Brush the hair in the correct direction. This helps train the hair and speeds up drying.


Washing your animal regularly will help make them gentle. Washing with soap is important to remove dirt and build up. However use a mild soap to prevent drying out the animals skin and always make sure to rinse out all of the soap thoroughly. Start rinsing at the top and work down.

Blow drying

A blow dryer can be a great tool for speeding the drying process and working the hair. When using a dryer, always blow hair in the correct direction. A blower can be used on an already dry animal to set hair products, remove dirt or just to train hair.

Clipping the body

This can be a challenging but rewarding experience. It does take time and doesn’t have to take place at once. Always remember you can take it off, but you can’t put it back on !

Use small slow strokes with the clippers.. Work in sections when clipping. Look at each section when your finished. When you like how it looks, move to another section.

Clipping the Head (Note: A Belties head should be hairy)

Use caution when clipping the animals head. Remove the animals halter and begin from the poll and work down. Clip from the face down to the dewlap and brisket to create a longer looking neck. Carefully blend hair into the neck area.

Clipping Tips – Clipping is an art !

When clipping the animals back remember that the goal is to make the top look square, not round. The same rule applies to the hind quarters.

The hip area should be clipped to give the animal an appearance of a level hip.

Clip the hair on each side of the tail on the rump short. This will create the illusion of thickness.

The goal of clipping the legs is to make them look square. Comb the hair up and don’t forget the insides of the legs too!

Show box check list

– Show halters + 1 spare

– Show Sticks

– Show Coats + a Tie and Raingear

– Clippers & Scissors

– Soap bar

– Combs: Curry Comb & Tail Comb

– Brushes

– Blowdryer & Extension Cable

– Wash Sponge & Bucket

– Clean Towels/Cloths

– Clean Feed & Water Buckets

– Feed

BRUSHES Brushes (assortment: rice root, synthetic fiber, wash brushes) A Rice root brush is one of the most important grooming materials that is needed when training the hair of the animal. Brush the hair of the animal forward with the rice root brush. The brush will help remove the dead hair from the animal, as well as, training the hair to stand up straight. A wash brush (one made of plastic with soft bristles or a wash plastic wash mitt) is just what it sounds like a brush used when washing cattle. Brushing during the washing process helps the exhibitor get the cattle cleaner. Scrub the entire animal thoroughly, head, neck, face, feet, legs, and etc., in order to clean it properly.  
COMBS Scotch combs (regular and fluffer combs) Scotch combs are used when grooming the cattle’s hair. Run the comb in a forward and upward direction. The points of the combs can be very sharp so the exhibitor must be gentle with the cattle. Most exhibitors prefer to have two of these combs available – one for grooming body hair and one for using with adhesives in grooming leg and tail head hair. A fluffer comb is used much like that of the regular scotch comb, but it’s teeth are set further apart allowing the hair of the animal to pop or “fluff” as he comb is run through .the. hair.    
BLOW DRYER This piece of equipment helps dry the beef project after they have been washed or rinsed, helps clean the hair of dust and foreign matter and is a valuable aid in training the hair. It is advisable to purchase a blower that has not only a blower but also a heating element to speed the drying process.    
CLIPPERS There is a WIDE variety of clippers on the market today for use on livestock projects. It is best to chose a set of clippers with a good motor ainterchangeable heads. Heads can be changed for clipping longer body hair or for close clipping of hair on such body parts as the head and tail.  
SCISSORS Scissors can be a very valuable tool as well when it comes to “fine-tuning” your final clip job. Be sure to invest in a pair that is sharp and able to cut through the sticky adhesives used on legs and tail heads.  
SHOW HALTERS Show halters come in all kinds, colors, and sizes. The most commonly used halter in today’s show ring is a black rolled-nose leather halter with a short lead.  

Quick steps to the Show ring

1. Before entering the ring, the halter must be on the animal. When putting on the halter, the little circle goes around the animal’s nose, and then the bigger circle goes around the back of the animal’s head behind the ears. Then tighten the halter by pulling on the rope. The lead rope should be on the left side of the animals head.

2. Hold show halter in you right hand. Place your thumb closest to you with your hand six to twelve inches from animal’s head, near his nose

3. Place the show stick in your left hand, pointing the hook down

4. Walk into the ring to the left, watching the judges / stewards instructions carefully. Animals will enter the show ring in a line.

When leading the animal, have one hand up by his nose, and your other hand on the end of the rope. Pull the rope and walk. Your animal will begin to walk behind you. Keep the animals nose up if he gets it to the dirt he will then have momentum and control and then be more prone to run. If your calf moves out of line, pull animal in a clockwise circle to move him back into his proper place.

5. Now you are entering the show ring. Looking at the judges, do everything he tells you to do

6. When the judge signals for you to walk, you will have to walk with the other animals in a couple of circles

7. Stop the animal for side profile with four to six feet between your animal and the one in front of you. The animals will be facing head-to-rear

When the judge tells you to stop, stop your animal. Usually you can do this when you stop walking. Turn around and face your animal with the halter in your left hand.

8. Switch the halter from your right hand to the left smoothly but quickly. As you do that, switch show stick from your left hand to the right

9. Use show stick now. You’re going to set up your animal. Take the stick and use the pointy end and poke in between the two hooves. This will make the hooves move backwards so that they are lined up. Use the hooked end to pull from behind the two hooves to pull forward to line up. Either way works. The fore-feet and one hind foot (preferably the one closest to the judge) are directly under him, and one hind foot (the one furthest from the judge) more under the animal. Often, though, all four feet should be planted squarely under the animal

10. Step back to allow the judge a full view of the animal, and enough space that you are still holding the lead of your animal, but not interfering with the judge

11. Be prepared to answer any questions the judge may ask. Typical questions include birth date, name of and breed of the sire and dam, etc. If the judge touches the animal, comb the hair with your scotch comb back to the way it was prior to the judge touching it (if it doesn’t correct itself) after he/she walks away or moves on to the next contender.

12. The judge will tell you to walk around the ring again. Keep looking at him and smile. Remember one eye on your animal, one eye on the judge at all times !

13. When called follow the judges directions pick high ground and move quickly to your location.

14. Using your show stick stand your animal square keeping his head raised and always watching where the judge is.

15. Remember you haven’t won until you have the rosette in your hand. Be a good sportsperson and shake hands with the other competitors. Do not leave the showring before the prizewinners unless asked by the stewards. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t get Grand Champion. At least you know how to show a Beltie!