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Adequate length between team and drag is not always easy to see, but is very important, especially when pulling a heavy load. To measure the length needed, pull one end of the chain through the ring of the yoke and hitch it at any link. The end, which will hook to the drag should be located where the stifle and rear flank meet when the chain is pulled tight against the side of the animal and wrapped around the back end of your longest steer. This should allow enough room so your animals do not hit the drag or are uncomfortable by too much draft (weight).
By working with your team at home, you will be able to know what length of chain works best for your animals.
When your longest steer has his back legs fully extended in pulling, he should clear the end of the stone boat by Pole sled training at least six inches. If your teams hind hooves do hit the drag, immediately stop and readjust the chain length – damaged hooves could mean the end to a good team.
4-H teams are generally required to pull half their weight on the day of a distance pull performance class. Most fairgrounds have their own set of scales and weigh times will be announced by the superintendent of shows. When you arrive at a show, your team should be able to pull the required weight without difficulty – this is not the time to “see if they can.” Teams that struggle, balk, back-chain or fall down while hitched may be marked down or disqualified.
After hitching to a load, you need to set your team up before saying the command to move forward. To set up a team to pull a load, step them over to the left or right to create a slight angle of the chain. This is called cutting the load and makes it easier to start pulling a load. Turn your drag the same way you turn a cart.
■ Three Point Turn Most judges have a 4-H team make two turns, a ‘gee’ and a ‘haw’, in a distance pull class.
These can be around barrels, or at a designated end of the ring. Be sure you remember which end is ‘gee’, and which end is ‘haw’, to avoid being marked down by the judge.
A common turn is the three-point turn, where a teamster stops at the designated turning point and side steps his team in the correct direction, at a right angle to the drag, and pulling forward until the drag is straight again. This is called cutting the drag. Two more turns like this and the 29 drag is headed in the opposite direction in no time.
Remember when turning to keep the chain tight and legs and hocks away from the chain. If one of your steers steps over the chain, correct the problem immediately, and continue to your next turn.
It is proper to rest your team between each turn, even if they do not appear tired. This will let the judge know you care for your team, and would rest them if they were out in the woods doing real work. After stopping your team, remember to cut the load before starting again.
■ Weight A 4-H team should be able to pull half of their combined weight. If your team is too tired or having difficulty with the load on the day of the show, do not be afraid to ask the judge to remove some weight from the drag. You may be penalized for not being prepared, however, most judges will respect the fact that you do not want to ruin or discourage your team.
■ Timed Classes Many judges put a time limit on the performance cart and distance pull classes. The time depends on the judge, but many run from three to five minutes. Usually older, more experienced teamsters will have a shorter time limit than novices.
Some judges will stop you if you have exceeded the time limit, especially if there are numerous teamsters in your class. Do not let this discourage you. Go out into a course and try the best you can to do a good job. If you hit something, try to correct it to the best of your ability. If you can’t, don’t waste your time, but move on.
Remember to remain calm and be patient with your team. It is helpful to watch teamsters before you and see where the hard spots in the course are. If you are first, good luck, and be proud to show others what your team can do.
Fitting and Showing Although 4-H membership doesn’t require participation in a show, many 4-H working steer members plan to enter their team in a local, county, or state show. At these shows, you will be representing not only your club, but also 4-H working steer projects from around your state. It will be necessary for you to understand and abide by the rules and expectations provided to you by the show.
4-H Working Steer competitions are generally composed of (but are not limited to) three classes.
• Fitting and Showmanship Showing working steers
• Performance Cart
• Distance Pull In the Fitting and Showmanship class you will be judged on appearance of team and teamster, attentiveness towards the judge, ability to show the animals, and knowledge of the 4-H project.
30 Teamster Appearance As a teamster, you will need to dress appropriately whenever you enter a show ring. Colored jeans or pants (no blue jeans) and a clean, white dress shirt are required as well as work boots or another form of adequate footwear. Sandals and street shoes are unacceptable, as your feet may not be protected if one of your steers inadvertently steps on you. Club outfits are also acceptable (i.e. khaki pants with shirt and tie or club shirts with colored pants). Coming into the show-ring without proper dress could result in a lower placing.
Team Appearance The fitting of your team will play a large roll in the placing you receive in a Fitting and Showmanship class. This fitting will be a reflection of the time and feed you put into your team at home before the show and directly before the competition.
■ Clipping Three to four weeks before the show season begins, body clip your team of working steers.
(If you have never done so, it may be wise to consult an older member of your club for assistance). You will need to purchase or borrow animal clippers with several sizes of sharp blades.
A body clip entails clipping the animal’s coat against the hair. Start the clippers on a low speed when approaching the animal, for even a wellhandled steer may be startled by the sudden noise. Be sure to clip the steer’s body, legs, belly, neck, head and tail. It may be easier to use a smaller pair of clippers for the head, especially with younger animals.
Don’t forget to clip the ears, poll and around the horns – but be careful. You may need somebody to help hold your animals head if you steer is Shaded areas should be clipped two weeks being unruly. before showing the steer.
Do not clip the tail switch. Begin clipping the tail at the top of the switch (this is where the longer tail hairs begin) and clip up to the tail head.
Other than the tail switch, the tail should be kept short throughout the show season.
Although difficult to clip, the legs, knees and hocks will be much easier to keep clean if the hair is kept short. This may not be necessary to do before every show, but should be included in the preliminary body clip.
Bellies and sheath hairs should be kept short throughout the show season. This will prevent staining and collection of manure or sawdust.
■ Horns Firm horn attachment varies by breed. You should be sure your steer’s horns are firmly attached before you begin sanding them. Remember that there is a blood supply just under the shell of the horns, so you must be careful if you use glass or a knife in the preliminary steps of smoothing out the horns.
First: Use a rough sandpaper or carpenter’s screen to get out any gouges or ripples in the horn.
Use the sandpaper with the grain of the horn (sanding away from the horn base as opposed to against the grain which would be a circular motion around the horn) as against the grain sanding could cause more scratches to remove then you started with.
31 Second: Use medium sandpaper, sanding with the grain until the horn is smooth and without ripples.
Third: Use a fine sandpaper against the grain of the horn to produce a very smooth horn.
■ Brushing After you clip your team, it would be wise to begin brushing them. Just a few minutes of brushing each day will help keep loose hair and dirt off the animal, as well as reduce dandruff, which will in turn produce a healthy, shiny coat.
For everyday brushing, use a hard or medium bristled brush with firm, brisk strokes. Begin the brush with bristles angled slightly upward on the steers coat, then move downward over a small portion of the coat, changing the angle so the bristles are pointed down at the end of a stroke. Quick flicks of the wrist should be used to lift dirt and hair off the coat and away from the animal. A soft brush can be used in longer strokes to smooth hair down and produce high shine.
Teams that are not brushed everyday will have dull coats with accumulated dandruff and dirt and will be difficult to prepare for a show.
Steers often enjoy a good brushing, as it is invigorating and stimulating. Often, teamsters will treat their team to a quick brush down before and/or after a workout. Brushing can be used as a form of positive reinforcement.
■ Washing Although brushing is helpful, it may not be enough to keep your team clean. Your team is likely to become dirty in any housing environment.
Washing a steer may not be as easy as it sounds. However, if animals are introduced to the washing process early on, they will become accustomed to it. Washing is usually preformed just prior to leaving for a show, but can be done at any time.
Securely tie your steer where he will be washed. (At competitions, “wash-racks” or, common washing areas are provided, but you may need to provide your own.) Preferably, your wash-rack will be up against a building or something your animal cannot jump through or over if frightened by the water. (Animals unaccustomed to washing may be scared by sudden water temperature and pressure).
Begin by wetting the whole steer down with water. He may not enjoy this but should comply.
Once your steer is thoroughly drenched, you can apply the soap. You can use any kind of soap you want, from livestock soaps on the market to laundry or dish detergents, to the shampoo out of your own bathroom.
Use a scrub brush (one with strong, hard bristles, but not one you will use for brushing a dry coat) to rub the soap into the coat to remove any dirt, dandruff or excess hair. Animals with white hair will require a little more elbow grease, as stains on knees, hocks, brisket and flanks are more apparent.
Make sure to scrub the belly, head and tail. It may be useful to have a bucket filled with soapy water to get places you might have missed.
32 Scrubbing the hooves is not always feasible to do before traveling to a show, as manure will re-collect during shipping, but it is helpful. Be careful to anticipate your steer’s movements so you do not get stepped on or kicked while scrubbing hooves.
After thoroughly scrubbing your steer, you may rinse him. You must make sure you have rinsed out ALL of the soap off the coat, as soap left to dry can cause dandruff or a dull appearance.
Once completely rinsed, put your steer in a clean, dry place and monitor to prevent unnecessary staining.
■ Cleaning Equipment The best way to present a clean team to a judge is to have them in clean equipment. Your yoke is the major piece of this equipment. To have your yoke ready for a show, start by cleaning it after every use. After a work out with your team, wipe any dirt or manure that may have accumulated on the yoke neck, belly or bows with a damp cloth. In extreme cases, it may be necessary to sand down dirt and apply a new coat of polyurethane to the yoke or bows.
If your staple, ring and pins (see Parts of a Yoke diagram) are painted (usually black), it would be best to apply a fresh coat of paint to them. Be sure to cover the wood of the yoke with a cloth or newspaper and masking tape to prevent any discoloration.
Your goad stick is also a piece of equipment, and should be in presentable condition. The goad should be the appropriate length and width, as well as being fairly smooth and free of sharp ends. Many teamsters find that wrapping black electrical tape from the handle to almost the tip of the goad gives a presentable appearance.
Tack Box You will probably want to bring with you a box of cleaning supplies and equipment you may
need at a show. This is called a tack box. Some things you may want to include in your box:
• Hard brush
• Medium brush
• Soft brush
• Tail comb
• Scrub brush
• Water pail
• Hoof/Horn polish or oil Be sure to put your farm name or initials on your equipment, as things are easily misplaced at a show. When packing for a show, don’t forget such necessities as your yoke, pins, goad stick, show clothes, grain and hay, and team. It is always helpful to make a list of what you need and check-off things as your pack them.
At the Show After arriving at a show, check in with the superintendent. Find out where you can tie your steers and unload your equipment. Shortly after, take your team to the wash-rack.
Repeat all procedures for washing, this time taking extra time in removing stains from knees, hocks, briskets, and flanks, as well as manure from hooves.
33 Back at your team’s stall, you should tie them securely with enough rope to be comfortable, but not enough so they may turn around and fight with animals near them.
You must have halters and lead ropes to tie your team. Collars and chains are not advisable, as they do not hold a team from fighting with neighbors. Halters allow more control over the animal and help create a good public image. Provide your steers with ample bedding (straw or sawdust is usually provided by the show) so as to prevent your team from getting dirty again.
At this point, you will want to take care of all other details.
Clean each ear free of wax and dirt with a cloth dampened with water or rubbing alcohol. Q-tips are not recommended as movement of the steers head could cause you to push the Q-tip in too far, possibly damaging the ear drum and irritating the steer.
Make sure horns are smooth and no damage has occurred during shipping.
Directly before a fitting and showmanship class, make sure under the tail head is free of manure, eyes and nose are clean and free of discharge, and the coat is free of dandruff and loose hairs.