LIC | Rearing your calf

Rearing your calf

Training your calf happens at the same time as feeding – so right from the first day, you need to spend time with your calf so it trusts you, and allows itself to be held and lead.

Fitting a calf cover

Calf covers serve two purposes – they keep your calf warm and dry and also flatten and polish its coat preventing fading from the weather, and meaning your calf will have a shiny coat when it gets to calf club.

Calf covers are easily made from empty meal sacks – but first check with the farmer and/or your parents to be sure the sack is not made of plastic which does not ‘breathe’. The ideal sacks are light and made of synthetic fibre in a woven pattern which allows air to pass through, while keeping the calf warm. A light, soft blanket sewed into the inside of the cover will ensure your calf is warm - but be sure it is a light blanket so the cover does not become too heavy for a small calf. Velcro straps sewn onto the front and back will allow you to remove it easily for grooming and will also allow you to increase its size as your calf grows.

The ideal cover should cover your calf from its shoulders to its rear. Be sure to watch for rubbing of hair or skin under the velcro straps.

Fitting a halter

Calf halters can be purchased from your local farming store; they are made of soft leather and can be adjusted so they fit very small and quite large calves.

Halters are fitted for around one hour each day of the calf’s life with you – leaving it on for longer would rub hair off. As soon as possible after your calf arrives, fit the halter with help from the farmer, Mum or Dad.

When fitted correctly, you should be able to fit two fingers between any part of the halter and your calf’s skin, and it should not pull off if the calf pulls back.

At first your calf will notice the strangeness of having something on its head and may try to rub its head against you, the fence or the ground to try and remove it. The best way to minimise its concern about the halter is to fit it just before the calf is fed – it will then turn its attention to eating and will forget about the halter.

You will need some grooming equipment – a bucket, some soap or animal shampoo, a small piece of old towel or sponge (for washing), one of Mum’s old towels (for drying) and a soft brush (for grooming).

Each day, remove your calf’s cover and brush it all over – remember you are brushing the hair, removing dirt and dust, not rubbing the skin so don’t push too hard as your calf will move away from the pressure of the brush. Calves normally love this time, as the brush removes all the itches from its coat and also get to those ‘hard to reach’ places that its hooves can’t reach, or it can’t scratch on posts or branches of trees.

  • Calves normally love this time, the brush removes all the itches from its coat and also get to those 'hard to reach' places that its hooves can't reach, or it can't scratch on posts or branches of trees.

You may know someone who shows cattle or horses – they might be able to share some of their ‘secrets’ for getting more shine on their animal’s coats.

Washing your Calf

Your calf should not be washed within three days of Calf Club - this is so your calf's coat has its natural oils on the day of Calf Club. You may, however, choose to wash it when it is younger so it is used to the feeling of warm water and soap on its coat - but remember:

  • Only wash your calf on a warm day and with plenty of sunlight so its coat dries before the day becomes dark and colder.
  • Use a mild soap or shampoo; wet the coat thoroughly with warm water and rub in enough soap to get a good lather. Massage the coat and skin so you get all the dust, dirt and scales of skin out before you rinse it - preferably with a soft stream of warm water from the hose (if it is a warm day, the water in the hose will be a good temperature to rinse the calf's coat).
  • Be sure to rinse all the soap out of the coat because any residues of soap will limit the amount of shine you will get from the coat when it is dry.
  • Scrape your calf's coat with the side of your hand to remove the surplus water, and then briskly rub it all over with the towel.
  • Your calf's coat will still be damp, so you should brush it to lay the coat down flat, and leave the calf tied up in a warm, dry, clean place out of draught so its coat dries before you put its cover on.
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