LIC | Training your calf


Training your calf

Training your calf to lead

You need to train your calf to do three things on the lead - to walk forward alongside you, to turn when required, and to stop.

When the calf appears to accept the halter, you can begin teaching it to lead. There are several ways to do this – you can pull and tug, or you can get Mum or Dad to help you tie a long soft rope into a big loop – big enough to fit around your calf’s bottom, under its tail, with the lead coming over its back and through the loop on the halter. Now, when you pull the lead, the rope will come up under the calf’s tail and it will move forward. As it moves forward, the pressure under it’s tail stops, and so it learns to move forward. This way often trains a calf in a shorter time than any other method.

 

Position of the calf when leading

You want your calf to walk on your right, and for its head/shoulder to be alongside you. Your right hand holds the rope close to the halter (around 15-25 cm away from the side of your calf’s head), with the rest of the rope in your left hand so it is not trailing on the ground where you or your calf can walk or trip on it.

Never wrap the rope around your hand – this is very dangerous as it could mean you are dragged if the calf gets a fright and attempts to run away from you.

Turning

If you have followed the steps described above, you will have your calf moving happily forward with you. Now you have to learn to turn the calf. Remember you are on the outside of the calf when it turns, so you need to push its head towards the new direction as you begin to make the turn – and remember, the turns need to be very big at the start as your calf won’t be used to this new movement and you don’t want it to become unbalanced and trip or it would get a fright and lose confidence in you.

Stopping

You also need to learn how to stop your calf. This is done by a gentle pull on the lead rope and shouldn't be done suddenly which would give your calf a fright. Let it know you're going to stop, by giving gentle tugs on the rope, and then a long pull, fixing your feet on the ground and leaning back a bit so the calf feels your weight on the rope - don't give any hard, sudden pulls on the rope though as this would hurt the calf's nose.

Stand still for a minute or more - the calf only moving forward again when you decide to.

How often and how long to train

Start with a few minutes training each day. After each session, praise and pat your calf. When it is happily going forward you can take off the 'bottom' rope and just have a lead rope tied to the halter.

Varying your leading routine

Remember to vary the routine when you walk your calf - at first go in straight lines and, when you turn, make sure the calf is on the inside of the turn (and you are on the outside). As the calf gets more used to going for walks with you, vary the route you take - walking it past 'different' things which might distract it so, by the time calf club comes along, your calf is almost 'bomb proof' - used to all sorts of sights and sounds. Be sure to walk the calf in various patterns too - circles, loops, zig zags - but remember that it has four legs, so don't make sudden turns which could make it lose its balance or its confidence.

Training time should be fun, for you and the calf, so do train every day, but don't train for so long either of you becomes bored or tired. Decide what you want to achieve, do it, and then reward your calf, groom and cover it and let it go in its paddock.

Leading in preparation for Calf Club

At calf club you will have to lead your calf in a large square, walking it around pegs in the corners and doing a complete circle around one peg. You also have to stop the calf and make it stand still so the judge can look at it closely. Practise these movements - and don't forget the 'standing still' training!

Teaching your calf to tie up

You can now begin to train calf to tie up. For the first attempts, use the long, soft looped rope, but do not 'tie' the other end to a post - simply wrap the end of the rope around a post and keep hold of it. The calf may pull back, but the rope will come up under its tail and it should walk forward. When it does, make a fuss of it, release the rope and go for a walk. Repeat this each day, briefly, until the calf does not pull back. You can then tie the calf, with the proper lead rope, to the post. In the early days of tying up, don't walk away from the calf as it will just try to follow you. Instead use this time as 'grooming' time, spending time brushing its head, body and legs, and talking to it.

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