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If nothing else, it is advisable to brush, brush, brush, right up to the time you need to enter the show-ring.
■ Show Time Always know what time a show begins and arrive at the designated place early. Bring a brush and a clean cloth with you and do any last minute touch ups where you can hear your class announced. If there are other classes ahead of you, make sure to watch those classes. This will help you determine what the judge is looking for as well as give you ample time to yoke up and be ready for your class without guessing.
Once you have entered the ring (with your team and dressed in proper show clothes), you must pay close attention to the judge and your team.
■ Set Up If the judge asks you to set up your team, you must find a spot that puts your steers in a position to show them off at their best. Such a position should allow your team enough room. Do not crowd another team. You want to show your team to the best of your ability.
If one steer in your team is slightly larger than the other, try to find a hill or rise in the showring to make your smaller steer appear larger. You may also want to set up your team heading slightly up hill (front feet on small rise) to make them appear more bullish.
Always make sure your team is attentive. Keep your team parallel to each other and the yoke straight.
Do not let your team wander off, eat grass, lie down, mount or fight with others while in the show ring.
■ Watch the Judge It is very important to keep an eye on the judge, even if you think he/she is not looking at you.
A judge may place a class before giving his/her reasons, and if you aren’t paying attention, you may lose your place.
Do what the judge asks of you. If you do not follow instructions, you will not receive a high placing. Never turn your back to a judge. Always turn your body so you are facing him/her as well as keeping an eye on your team.
A judge may ask you questions to find out the extent of your knowledge on your 4-H project.
Answer these to the best of your ability. Some questions which may be asked:
Keep your team’s attention. A team that responds quickly and correctly will help you receive a higher placing. Don’t give up. A judge’s placings aren’t final until the ribbons are handed out, so keep on smiling and showing to the best of your ability. If you have questions, ask the judge politely afterwards and he/she will be happy to speak with you.
Showmanship In addition to the fitting of your team and knowledge of your project, you will also be judged on your showmanship abilities. However, showmanship is a quality that is beneficial in more than just the fitting and showmanship class. Your attitude and attentiveness will be continually checked by the judge and supervisors.
To be a good showperson, one must exhibit self-control in the ring. Even if your animals are acting out of control during a show, do not use brute force to get their attention. The ring is a place to show off what your team can do, not train them.
Offer encouragement to your fellow teamsters from the sidelines of cart and drag classes (if you are not in the ring with them). Congratulate your fellow teamsters on a job well done.
A showperson will remember that he or she is at a fair to present a team of working steers to the judge and also for the public. Teamsters should be on their best behavior at all times. No horse play around the barns or cattle. This will help to prevent scaring the cattle and will present working steer 4-H members in a positive manner. Be friendly and offer to answer questions the general public may have about your team and your project.
Tricks of the Trade As you gain experience and become an expert at washing, fitting and showing cattle, you will find there are a few tricks of the trade and helpful hints that will give you and your team an edge.
■ Common Problem:
You will find after many months of training hard for a pulling class, the spot where the yoke rests on your teams’ neck is white and flaky. Especially noticeable on black animals, dandruff (accumulated dead skin cells), is an undesirable trait during the Fitting and Showmanship class. A judge will often pull back a yoke to see if you have attempted to hide a dandruff problem. Other common dandruff areas are the back and end of the tail.
Some teamsters have found the skin on animals’ neck can be softened by baby or mineral oil. A small amount of oil can be worked into the skin of problem areas to soften and reduce dandruff. But oil will also give your animals’ coat a greasy look, which will be frowned upon in the show ring. If you use oil, make sure you do it well ahead of a show so it will be worked out of the coat by show time.
Another approach to dandruff problems is with ordinary white vinegar. After washing and thoroughly rinsing your steer, pour ample amounts of vinegar over the problem areas and do not rinse.
35 Dandruff can be controlled by everyday brushing. Although these tricks may help, good ol’ elbow grease is your best bet.
■ Common Problem:
After sanding your steers’ horns for hours on end, you may find they turn somewhat dull to look at. Judges like to see smooth horns and clean hooves, and some teamsters like to put a shine on their steers’ horns.
There are several ways to put a little spark to your team’s horns. Many teamsters use baby or mineral oil to give the horns and hooves a soft, clean and smooth appearance. Make sure you start with clean hooves and smooth horns. Dab a small amount of oil onto a clean cloth or paper towel. Rub moistened cloth onto horn and hoof, making sure not to get stepped on.
Try not to get oil into the hair, as it will cause a greasy appearance. It is helpful to apply oil to hooves while animals are standing on dry, clean concrete or pavement and remain there until oil is dry and no dirt will stick to them. Before going into a show ring, make sure to remove any excess oil off horns. A judge may touch the horns and will not be pleased by greasy hands.
Other teamsters like to use polish, which is applied by a brush. Polish comes in clear and black and leaves hoof and horn with a shiny appearance. Horns should be clean and well-sanded before applying polish, as dirty, rough horns will stand out even more. Do not get any hair around the horns or hooves in the polish, as the hair will harden in the polish, too. It is not recommended to use black polish, as it is difficult to keep off white hair and can leave an unnatural appearance.
■ Common Problem:
There will be times, no matter how much you brush, you just won’t seem to get any shine to your animals coat. This can be especially bothersome in white or red animals.
After washing your animals, it is possible to apply a conditioner to your teams’ coat, which can help to gain shine. There are many such conditioners on the market, but make sure to read the labels. Some conditioner must be rinsed or else dandruff will result while others may be left on for super shine.
For last minute shine, use a product like “Show Sheen” or “leave-in” conditioner and water in a spray bottle. After brushing away any and all loose hair and dirt, spray a light mist over each animal and brush the product in for a high shine that will be sure to attract a judge’s eye.
Make certain you do not use too much of the product, as sticky clumping of hair may occur.
■ Common Problem:
Cattle generally don’t enjoy their ears being cleaned, but judges have been known to check ears with a napkin in the ring, so don’t forget about them.
For stubborn earwax, use baby wipes to clean out ears. You don’t need to clean farther than your fingers can reach, but make sure the wipe comes out clean before you’re done. Refrain from using Q-tips, as the sensitive eardrum may be damaged by sudden moves from the steer.
■ Common Problem:
Diarrhea may be caused by traveling, which can be stressful to animals, as can the change of water from their usual source. Diarrhea can also be very messy, so it is helpful to limit stress as much as possible.
Keep a box of cornstarch in your tack box. You can mix a cup of cornstarch with a couple cups of grain to try and harden your teams stool. It is also advisable to provide clean, dry hay which the animals are used to eating. Also provide clean watering buckets. DO NOT share your animals’ buckets with other animals. Even if they appear healthy, steers can carry diseases that may be passed through sharing buckets. To prevent taking home an unwanted ailment, keep your buckets to yourself, and don’t forget to bring them home. If you’re not sure about the water quality at the fair, it may be helpful to bring water from home.
■ Common Problem:
The appearance of your team is not all that attracts a judge. As a teamster, you too must also be presentable.
Get dressed into your show clothes at least a half-hour before the show. Once you’re dressed, put on a shirt over your white shirt. Last minute touch ups to your team sometimes stain a shirt, so this trick is not only advisable, but sometimes a lifesaver. You should bring with you enough clean show shirts for each day you will show, just in case. A teamster should look clean and presentable for each class he/she enters. (Tip: Don’t forget to take off your cover shirt before entering a ring!) Yoke Making The main piece of equipment necessary with working steers is the yoke. Many teamsters enjoy making their own yokes. This should ensure their steers are comfortable and are able to work well together. Here are some guidelines to work by when you are making your yoke.
Fitting the Yoke Yoke sizes are based on the length from the inside of one bow hole to the inside of the next bow hole. Most calves begin in a 4” yoke and go through progressively larger yokes as they grow and gain more muscling through the neck.
When resting, a well-fitted yoke should sit comfortably on the steer’s necks. The steers should not be straining to move away from the yoke or bows, nor choking or gasping for air. As a basic guideline, you should be able to slip your open hand between the bow and steer’s neck on one side or the other.
When pulling, the yoke should push against the neck above the shoulders, with the steers heads bent slightly forward and down. Any tossing of the head, pulling away from the yoke or balking could mean something is wrong. Most likely this is caused by a poor fitting yoke. Ask a 4-H Leader or experienced teamster for assistance.
Draft The draft of the yoke is the angle of the chain from the bottom of the yoke to the stone-boat. If there is not enough angle (or the belly of the yoke is too deep), the bows will push into the neck as the top of the yoke pulls forward and down.
37 If there is too much draft or too little belly, the yoke will ride high on the animals, pulling up, rather than allowing the bows to tuck into the shoulders. Draft can be changed with a wood block to lower the staple, cutting the belly of the yoke, or adjusting the ring position. Rings can be moved forward or backward in order to change draft.
Staples There are several different types of staples and rings to choose from. A simple eyebolt and ring is fine for small yokes, but is not recommended for any heavy pulling.
Some staples are adjustable. They have two slots in front of and behind the ring. This enables you to slide the ring from side to side towards the stronger steer, making it easier for the weaker steer to pull effectively. When using this staple, always make sure nuts are securely tightened to prevent slipping and posParts of the staple sible damage to steers.
Other staples allow the ring to be moved forward or backward to change draft when pulling.
Again, make sure all bolts are securely tightened.
Smooth Necks Above all else, a yoke must be comfortable for the steers. The neckpiece is in constant contact with your steers’ necks and therefore must be the smoothest part of the yoke. A good rule of thumb, so to speak, is too look at the curve of the bottom of your thumb. This shape is smooth and consistent, without any sharp edges or roughness. Make sure this area is well sanded and well rounded, to ensure comfort of you team and maximum working capabilities. Any cracks, high spots, or imperfections will irritate the steers.
Yoke Material For a young pair of steers in a 4 or 5” yoke, a lighter type of wood like bass or poplar is helpful to use. This will allow the steers to become adjusted to the weight on their necks before moving to a larger yoke.
Yokes for larger animals and those who will be pulling heavy loads should be made with some type of hardwood. Red or sugar maple, black or yellow birch and oak all make strong and worthy yokes. Other hardwoods such as elm or cherry, although more difficult to find, make good yokes.
When choosing your wood, look for a piece that has a straight grain. The grain of a wood is the lines running the length of the piece. Any cracks or large knots in this line are considered defects.
This is where the yoke will break if not properly constructed.
Knots can weaken the strength of your yoke. Knots are where a branch of the tree emerged from the trunk. They can be seen on the exterior of your piece, or may be hidden under the white wood.
Locate knots, as they most likely travel the width of the piece, and try to position them to be cut out.
Also, look for the heartwood of the piece. The heartwood is the dark circle of wood from the middle of the tree. Heartwood is not as strong as the white wood around it. It is helpful to find a piece where the heartwood is located towards one edge, as far from the center of the wood. This will allow you to cut most of the heartwood out with the neck.
The following chart may be used as a basic guideline when making a yoke. Modifications may be made to the preference of the teamster.
General Yoke Making Steps:
1. Find the heartwood and any knots. Try to position these towards the bottom of your yoke and label the top, front and back.
2. Measure out the center of your piece and mark it on the top.