A couple of months ago we told you how to get your cow a passport… now we’re ready with another ‘how to’ from the lads and lasses at t’farm: how to halter train a Longhorn bull. Warning: we strongly advise you not to try this at home.
The reason we halter train some of our bulls is not because we want to take them for walks like big dogs, but rather so we can show our best and most beautiful Longhorns at various shows around the country – hopefully picking up a couple of prizes and rosettes as we go. With our first show taking place in May our stockman Jim and his assistant Cheryl have been hard at work getting prepared. The aim is to train our show cattle to walk with a halter so that they are happy to strut their stuff around a judging ring and not cause any mischief.
Preparation starts early when the bulls are just little calves, the first thing to do is to select a calf who looks like he’d make a great bull; Tim, our Founder and Owner, and Jim are the ‘selectors’. Those who make the grade don’t get castrated like the other bull calves, instead they are left ‘intact’ and hopefully grow up to be handsome beasts. What Tim looks for in a good bull calf is a nice straight back, a nice white line down the centre of the back, robust thighs, an ample sized pair of testicles (stop giggling, this is a very important), and lastly a good bull-like broad head.
Of the calves that were born last year, six were selected as potentially prize-winning bulls and likely to produce good looking offspring. Out of those six we’ve registered three who we are confident won’t disappoint, they are called Nonny-No, Nuggent and Noggin.
Once the bulls have been selected at around 9-10 months old they need to be weaned (when they are separated from their mothers), and about a month after that we start to halter train. Unlike the stereotypical image of a bull with a ring through its nose, we just opt for a halter – a bit like you’d use for a horse, apart from horses don’t have a pair of big old horns flying about. See below Maisie Moo Cow in her halter.
So to make the experience as quick and painless as possible for the animal and ourselves, we lead the beast into a cattle crush, (a stongly build stall/cage used for holding cattle safely), so that they stay still and carefully halter them. Usually they have something to say about their new headgear, so it’s best to keep a safe distance and let them get used to it by themselves. We only keep them on for a few hours at a time, and repeat the process daily – favouring a little and often approach to familiarise them with the halter. When they get a little bit more used to it Jim gives their coats a bit of a wash and blow dry, they’ll need to look spic and span for showing, but we suspect Jim quite enjoys it too. Slowly but surely the animal will get used to their halter and eventually we don’t need the crush to halter them and they are happy to be led around, just as they would be in the show ring.
How long this process takes completely depends on the animal, every beast is different. One of our prize heifers Maisie Moo Cow was a proper madam when she first showed her last year, but she’s completely calmed down and is now one of our best behaved girls, Cheryl has even happily sat astride her…
Et voila! Halter training is complete and we’re ready for the showing season. We’re currently entering the regional country shows, we’ll be hoping for wins at the following: Newark & Nottingham Show, 10th-11th May; Northumberland Show, 26th May; Lincolnshire Show, 18th-19th June (this is the big Longhorn show where we’ll be entering twelve animals); Yorkshire Show, 08th-10th July; Westmorland Show, 11th September. We’ll keep you up to date on how we get on so keep an eye out!