Diary

Sunny and Rosie learn about haltersRSS feed

Posted: Tuesday 13 January, 2015

by Rosemary Champion at 12:21pm in Cattle 2 comments Add your own

With the cows and heifer calves inside, it's time to halter train the heifer calves. I enjoy this - gives me an excuse to spend time with the cows :-)

I suppose the way I do it changes slightly every year, based on the calves and previous experience. First thing is to get them addicted to sugar beet. The cattle are naturally greedy, especially for anything swet - so that's not too hard. I tie up all the cows - always starting with the most dominant, Blizzard, then Breeze, Annie then Bonnie. If you tie up any BEFORE Blizzard, she'll take advantage and duff them up. I untie them in reverse order, but for the same reason.

Blizz likes a bit of foreplay before the halter goes on - a bit of a scratch on tail head and neck is required or she has a bit of a strop. Breeze and the other two are fine - Annie almost puts her own halter on, bless her. She's such a nice cow and has huge hairy ears :-)

Once they're all tied up, they get a bit of hay with a bucket with a scoop of soaked sugar beet on top. The calves get sugar beet too - after a couple of days, they're looking for it. Rosie's the easier of the two this year - she went to Kirrie show last summer so had a day haltered. She's also more relaxed around folk generally.

It's then just a case of getting close enough to slip on the halter. It can take a few goes; I like to spend time giving them a good scratch, throwing the rope and halter over their back and head first. I don't tie them up generally, just let them move about if they need to - let's them get the feel of the halter without being TOO constrained. In the shed, there's nowhere for them to go and they can't get up a lot of speed either. Mostly, they just want to stay by their mothers - and eat.

Sunny is more feisty than Rosie - she rolls an eye at me and isn't so keen to be scratched, which is strange because Breeze and Bonnie are very people friendly. She's also quite vocal, which is quite funny. If she "talks" to me, I just talk back. But she's getting better and I did manage to get a halter on her today.

The only spare one I had was a white cotton show halter - which are rubbish for this because they don't "run" - you have to make the halter big to get it over ears, horns and nose but you need it to close up quick, and the white cotton ones don't do that. So I've ordered more blue polypropylene rope ones today.

Tomorrow, the halters will go on BEFORE the buckets go in - then being haltered is rewarded by food. I'll stand with them while they eat, then I'll start tying them up. You can halter train by tying them up and letting them fight the halter and if I had loads to train, I might do that but I only have two and I'd rather do it more slowly.

Mak, the wee bull, is funny. We have a routine - he gets his halter on at the gate, then he goes and stands in his "spot" and gets tied up. Then I muck him out, top up his bed, fill the wtaer and put in hay - then he gets his bucket. Oh, how the tension mounts :-) But he nearly jumps into his "spot" now. Only a couple of weeks until he can go out with the two bullocks - that'll be a rare tear :-)

Comments

Louise Gaunt

Sunday 18 January, 2015 at 2:29pm

I like your approach to halter training. When we were young on my Dad's farm we used to halter train the calves and take them for walks around the buildings. It paid dividends when they got older as they were used to having a halter and associated it with good times. Cows are such lovely creatures, if you have the time to give them a bit of fuss, everyone benefits!

Nicole

Thursday 19 February, 2015 at 4:20pm

It makes me smile to think of Mak's growing tension waiting on his food!

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