Fitting Clinic helps guide 4-H Youth
North Platte, Neb.
The countdown to county fair time has started and within weeks, livestock will be circling the show rings ready to garner the winning ribbons and honors. Preparing a beef animal for showing starts months ahead of time, and youth attending the 4-H level Fitting Clinic at North Platte Feed Center on June 28th learned what to put on the “to do” list for the weeks before the fair.
Presenter for the clinic was Kevin Schlake, manager at North Platte Feed Center. He shared some basic information about correctly fitting a beef animal, the new trends for showmanship and grooming style, and some hints and tips he’s learned along the way during his 20+ years of fitting and showing cattle.
The work done several months ahead of any shows can result in less stress for animal and handler later on. Blowing the hair forward will be most effective in training the hair and getting the animal used to the equipment. Comb the hair as it is blown and gradually get the animal used to having the front and back legs worked with.
“If you already have the hair trained before fair, then you’re a step ahead,” said Schlake.
In warmer weather, the animal should be washed once per week. Schlake recommends Joy detergent. The other days, the animal should be rinsed with water and then blown dry. Evaporation from the water rinse helps keep them cooler. A light spraying of a mixture of permectrin and Kleen Sheen or Pro Polish will aid in fly control and repelling dust from the hair.
A basic clipping should be done one month prior to the show.
“You should never do the main clip job at the show,” said Schlake.
Schlake used two halters to secure the head at the same height as when showing. He advised that 85% of the clipping be done with the blocking blade. Holding fingers under the blade helps prevent uneven cuts or gouges if the animal suddenly moves. Most clipping is done with the direction of the hair except when clipping on the face. When clipping the face, use clipper against the hair from the halter rope over the nose to the poll. No hair is left on the poll as that is no longer the trend.
The clipper blade of choice for the neck area is a 5/8″ H.T. This does a better job of trimming hair over the folds that are typical for the neck area. The neck and brisket need to be blended into the closer shaven face. Some blending can be done by backdragging, or using the clipper flipped over so the top of the blades rather than the bottom is clipping the coat of hair.
The clipping of the overall body depends on whether the animal is a steer or a heifer. A steer is given a boxier look with more definition of muscles. A heifer is trimmed to have a more feminine look with more rounded and gradual lines. The top of the back should always be clipped to look straight. The bottom line along the belly also needs to have a straight look. Keep the animal in a show stance while clipping to have a look consistent with that desired in the show ring.
Work on the legs takes patience and practice. The hair must be clean and dry. Rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle works very well for cleaning manure off the hair, and it also dries faster. Beginners may want to start by working on the front legs since there are fewer trimming decisions to make and the leg is shorter. Clip the hair to make the legs look straight. A white powder spray will give more definition to the hair for ease of trimming smoothly.
Hair has to be dry for adhesive to be effective. Schlake recommends using the medium hold adhesive because most people have a tendency to use more than is needed. He also always saves the spray tips off of old adhesive cans, so if a spray tip gets clogged, it can be replaced by one saved back. It is important to shake the can well because it often takes longer for the adhesive to be mixed well, especially at colder temperatures.
The top part of the tail is shaved close to about 4″ above the crotch, then blend in to the lower part of the tail. Ratting the tail to a ball is still in style. A thin layer of the top hairs are kept separate from the hair that is back-combed into a round ball. The ratted tail is sprayed to hold its form with the straight hair molded around it.
The show ring becomes the final contest for showmanship or a market class place. A little extra effort fitting an animal ahead of time could pay off in ribbons, awards, and a premium price on sale day.