Halter breaking calves can be challenging and very rewarding at the same time. We like to halter break all of our bull calves and show calves, but in the past we have also halter broke our heifer calves sometimes. Take a look at our Day in the Life in February to see how we fit halter breaking into our day.
We use the Weaver Leather Stierwalt Breaking Halter and it has been absolutely wonderful! It allows the animal to feel when you pull and then releases the pressure once the calf responds.
Steps to Halter Breaking
First, we start by putting the calves in the cattle squeeze so that we can put the halter on them. We try to work with them for about 1o minutes in the squeeze so that they start to become more comfortable with the halter and with us. This gets them used to the halter prior to them being asked to walk. We then turn the calves out into a pen for a few hours with the halter on and watch them closely. This teaching them to stop and respect the halter when they step on it.
The next day, we do the same thing and usually by this point, the calf is starting to calm down. We sometimes use a scotch comb and brush them in the cattle squeeze prior to letting them out. This is especially important for the show calves as this grooming them will become a daily task.
By the third day, we let them out of the squeeze and walk them down the alleyway.
For the next few days, we only lead them a short distance, each time walking a bit further. It allows them to get used to the halter and allows them to start to develop more trust.
It is always important to end the session on a positive tone with the calf, as it helps to develop the relationship.
After 5 -7 sessions of halter breaking, the calf should be pulling less and will start to follow you when you pull on the halter.
Tips to Remember
When working the calf, it is extremely important to remain calm and quiet at all times. Talking to the calf in a quiet voice will sometimes help to relax him/her.
I usually tie the calf to a post after 5 -7 days, depending on how well he/she is responding to pressure on the lead rope.
Also, remember that once you pull on the halter and the calf steps forward, you should release the pressure for a moment so that the calf is rewarded for responding. You can then pull again. Basically, you pull and release, and then pull and release again.
Practise, practise and more practise! Each time you work with your calf, it helps to develop trust and helps to build a relationship. I would love to hear how your halter breaking sessions go.