Straight to Curved Horns – How?

Where has January gone? It is already the middle of February and the cows are starting to calve.  I have been quiet on the blog in January, but I hope to keep you updated through calving. Watch for a blog post on “Day in the Life” for February, which will be posted soon!

Today, I wanted to tell you how we get the curved shape on our bulls’ horns.  You may wonder how that is possible or maybe you assume the horns naturally curve. Well, the answer is horn weights!

The horn weights that we use weigh between 0.5 lb. to 1 lb and they are tightened onto the horns so that the horns slowly curve downwards.  We check the bulls each time we feed to ensure that the weight is still on and to watch to see how much the horns are curving. Once the top of the horn has turned enough that the tip of the horn is parallel with the middle of the ear, we will take the weight off. Sometimes, one side will need to be taken off before the other so it sometimes involves two trips through the cattle squeeze.  The time going through the cattle squeeze is good as it helps the bulls get more familiar with us.  We halter break all of our bulls so when they go through the squeeze we usually lead them as they come out.

It takes the bulls a little bit of time to get used to the extra weight on their horns, but it definitely doesn’t appear to hurt them.  There are two tiny little points on the inside of the weight to help keep the horn weight on, but those are quite small.

Why do we want to curve the horns? Curved horns are safer for other cattle and for those who are working with the cattle.

My best childhood memory of horn weights is when my grandpa and grandma would pay us if we found horn weights in the corrals.  At that time, we were putting horn weights on 30-40 bulls so we definitely had some fall off and get lost.  When we found them in the dirt, we would get $1 for a horn weight with 2 points inside or $0.50 if there was only one or no points!  It was a great way to keep us entertained in the barn yard!  I definitely made a few dollars over the years!

Halter Breaking Calves

We like to halter break all of our bull calves and show calves, but we have also halter broke our heifer calves at times in the past.  This year we started to use the Weaver Leather Stierwalt Breaking Halter

It has been absolutely wonderful!

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.

The next day, we do the same thing.  By this point, the calf is starting to calm down. We sometimes use a scotch comb and brush them as well, especially for the show calves as this 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 days, we only lead them a short distance, each time walking a bit further. It allows them to get used to the halter and 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 walking, the calf should be pulling less and will start to follow you.

halter-breaking

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.

This is an overview of the halter breaking process.  Please contact me if you have any questions.

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