Halter training

Discussion in 'Cattle' started by Christiaan, Nov 22, 2005.

  1. Christiaan

    Christiaan Dutch Highlands Farm

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    None of my referance books tell me how, so I hope someone here can help. I need to know the procedure for halter training a heifer. She's almost 6 months old, a Highland. I have a regular cattle halter on her, the training halter I got was just way to big although its supposed to be for a calf. Anyway, I just can't get her to calm down and quit fighting it when I put a lead on the halter. Previous advice I've gotten says to just hang on and try to scratch and pet her and she'll calm. Well, she doesn't. Please help with some specific advice as the general info has gotten me nowhere.
     
  2. Sun-E-View

    Sun-E-View Sun-E-View

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    Hi, we don't have Highland cattle but we do raise British Whites. One way my son breaks them is to leave the halter on and let the rope drag. Make sure She is some where that the rope can't get caught on anything and strangle her. Every day or even several times a day go in the pen with her and hold on to the rope don't try to move her yet, then eventually try to pull her. Another way is to get her caught and tie her up with the head fairly high and watch so she dosen't get herself in trouble. And unfortunately some just won't become halter broke. Good Luck!!! Barb
     

  3. unioncreek

    unioncreek Well-Known Member Supporter

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    After you have let her run in a pen with the halter dragging, tie her to a post so that she can lay down and not choke. We have done this for up to 2 weeks without untieing them. If you hold onto the rope and they can pull you around they are just learning that the can do it and will continue doing it. Once tied to a good sturdy post they can't pull it around and by feeding and watering them while they are tied to the post you will be rewarding them for standing there.

    Bobg
     
  4. Haggis

    Haggis MacCurmudgeon

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    Looks like you have plenty of good advise already.

    I agree about tying the heifer and leaving her tied until she understands that she cannot escape. If she is "touch" shy, just go slow and continung touching her over a period of several days or even weeks, until she understands that you are not going to hurt her.

    When she no longer fights the halter or shies when you touch her, try leading her around a small enclosure, then a larger one, and eventually she'll just follow without resistance.

    The goal is to teach her that you can dominate her and that she cannot escape.

    In a smaller heard of cattle every bovine has a place and knows that place. They dominate some herd members or are dominated by all herd members. That being said, the boss cow will frequently be seen licking on and playing with the lowest member of the pecking order, but they never forget who is dominate and neither can you. Make your heifer do what you want using kindness, but make her do what you want, not what she wants.
     
  5. Paula

    Paula Well-Known Member

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    Pressure = discomfort
    Release of pressure = reward

    Unless the cow is small and unable to break away from you, you should start by tying it. You don't want them to realize that it's a possibility to get away. If you let the cow stand tied long enough it will quit leaning on the halter (providing your set-up was strong enough and they weren't able to break free, lol) because it's uncomfortable.
    When you start teaching it to lead use the same principle. Steady pressure (no jerking) on the halter till a foot moves. As SOON as a foot moves, release pressure. BTW, it's easiest in the beginning to go in a circle, it's pretty easy to make even a big cow step to the side.
    Continue in the same fashion. After the cow realizes what you are asking for, ask for a couple steps before you release pressure. When it'll take a couple steps easily you can start trying to go in a straight line. Then it has to learn to start walking with slight pressure from you and to continue walking till you stop. Make sure you don't drag it along, it gets no release of pressure that way, therefore no incentive. When it stops before you want it to just reapply the steady pressure. You might have to pull it to the side to get it going again. It's pretty simple - it just takes consistancy and persistance on your part.
     
  6. JeffNY

    JeffNY Seeking Type

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    Not sure about highlands. But when we halter trained ours for showing. I would tie them up for an hour, lead them around, tie up again for a time, and then return them back to the pasture. The 2nd time around, same thing. Some break easy, some pick it up easy. But some you will have to work with quite a bit. The best results are every other day for a couple weeks, worked for me.


    Jeff
     
  7. Paula

    Paula Well-Known Member

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    I should have added - always stop on a positive note, even if you have to go back to something the cow does well.
    And like Jeff said, some will pick it up easy, some not.
    I've had calves learn to lead in a couple hours but also had some who took a lot more work.
    The skittish ones always take longer.
     
  8. Christiaan

    Christiaan Dutch Highlands Farm

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    Thank all of you so much. Why this info couldn't be in a book is beyond me. It is almost the same technique that I used on colts some 30 years ago when a student at WSU.
    The heifer is actually a sweet heart, she just doesn't think much of me telling her what to do. I'll follow your guidelines and take it nice and easy. I have until March to get her completely trained.
    A complicating factor, maybe, is that she is being weaned and in a small paddock. That's easy. The difficulty is her mother hanging around and getting po'd at me. She's being trained for a tether so I can have her clear some woods for me. So I'm hoping the emotions won't be running too high by the time I take the heifer out of the paddock (its only 12 x 12) to train her to walk.
    No one ever said this life was easy, just simple!
    Thanks again.
     
  9. Paula

    Paula Well-Known Member

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    LOL - it would've been a lot easier to explain if we knew you had taught horses to lead.
    Post and let us know how you're doing with her.
    BTW, her mom should only be worried about her for a few days.
     
  10. Christiaan

    Christiaan Dutch Highlands Farm

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    I tied her down for an hour this morning, gave her about 6 feet of rope. Gave her some grain before and grapefruit peels after. She liked that part. Had a heck of a time getting the rope on her halter, finally had to lasso her and tie her down tight. So, I've left the rope on her halter. Since she doesn't have much room to move in anyway it shouldn't get in her way. I'll work her again on Friday. She is very sweet if I don't try to mess with her. Her mother came over to see what I was doing, but wandered back to her hay bunker after a minute or two. I don't think she minds Serenity not being able to nurse. Beth (the cow) has always weaned her kids herself, but this is about three months earlier than she would do it.
    Thanks again everyone.
    BTW, as I search my memory, I think horses were easier. I don't think horses have quite the sense of independance that cows have.
     
  11. TerryJ

    TerryJ Well-Known Member

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    Another thing that we found that helps is to isolate her so that she is lonely and she will be receptive to you when you go in her pen. Curry her and talk to her. She will like the attention. When you are leading her, constantly talk to her in a soft voice and she will respond to your voice. Always give her a treat after she has been lead. Do this for 2 weeks straight and she will be broke to lead for the rest of her life. I leave a leather collar on all my cows so that I have something to grab onto while I put the halter on. Once the halter is on they know that they won't be going anywhere but where you want them to go. Also, if you have broke them to lead good you won't need the halter, you can just grab ahold of the leather strap and lead them wherever you need to go. My girls are all angels!!! :angel:
     
  12. lilsassafrass

    lilsassafrass Well-Known Member

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    My daughter and I break 10 to 15 head of highland calves every year ...thankfully not all at one time ..
    I agree with all of the above , but I go a bit further and let the calf teach herself to lead .. we make the calves totally dependent on us .. first halter and drag the rope in teh pen a few days.. teh reason for that is so when she steps on rope pressure > stop (at least for a bit )
    then tie her up with just enough line so she can get up and down comfortabley .. suprisingly its pretty short .. she should not be able to turn around or get the line wound around her legs .. check on her a few times the first day ... take her her feed and water .... touch her , brush her if you can .. get her used to you approaching from the rear . if she wants to kick ... use a tickle stick and bother her till she tires of kicking .. and keep it up a bit after that .. do it every time she tries to kick at you ... brush her a bit if you can starting at the head end and work your way back to teh kicking parts .. keep in mind highland kick both out to the side as well as mule kick
    now after a few days and you can approach her head with out her giving you to much fuss about it .. set up her water pail a few ten feet away from where she is tied .. preferably behind her .. if you are lucky you can get her right there .. but you will either have to drag or let her drag you to teh tank .. water her there twice a day for a week or so .. gradually moving the tank farther and farther away .. and lead her around a bit on the trips back and forth. keep her head up and hold the line right up next to her face. include her feed pan in another spot if you like .. then the ultimate test is to take her on a short walk and come back to the water tank .. and then tie her up .. if you dont like the idea of keeping her tied so short for the few weeks to break her to lead after she learns she is going to water on teh lead let her loose in he box /paddock but put on the halter to take her to water . then brush her .. teach her the show stick .. (scritching their bellies actually does calm them down its why its done .. it feels good ... if you have ever had a calf fall asleep in the show ring .... )
    If all else fails .. and she just positively wont start leading for you .. the last resort is to tractor break her ... although some folk i know use this from the start and have a special trailer to tie to and can do 4 at a time .. teach them to stand tied .. get them to lead a bit around the barn .. so you can tie them up to teh draw bar on the tractor, make sure it short enough she cant jump up on the seat with you ... ask me how I know that can happen !!! and you have the draw bar all the way up
    and go .. slow .. she might balk at first .. lie down .. stop let her get to her feet .. adn go again .. after she walks well slow .. speed up. I know kids who walk their 4H steers this way for miles every day .. but it is a way to train one who just wont any other way ..if she still wont lead .. and has turned mean ... as sometimes highlands will (or any breed ).. well then you decide if she is worht the effort and becomes a pasture cow .. not to be handled or she goes in teh fattening pen ..
    As a highland breeder .. I will not sell for breeding any cow that cannot be handled and lead .. I couldnt care less if she was out of my best cow with 500.straw semen ,,, since docility and gentleness and easy handling are traits that teh highlands are known , are heritable, and enviroment will bring it out !!!!!.. but every now and then you get a bad un .. and she will pass that on to her babies .. pasture cows will by their nature pass on flightyness .. early weaning .. I have found is the best cure for that
    dont get mad , talk softly , if they are real stubborn , tie her back up with out her water .. (not going to fall over dead in a few hours .. ) and try agin after she starts getting very thirsty .. this is a good time of year since its not so hot ..
    she will lead for you when she figures out where the feed and water and attention comes from ... you
    Good luck
    As usual I am long winded .....
    Paula
    Hyde Park Farm
     
  13. SmokedCow

    SmokedCow Well-Known Member

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    I agree with all of these...Just take her easy..it might help if you had another person behind her to kinda keep her going...We have a barn, then a smaller working yard and then a larger yard with a shed..We put the halter on them and then tie a longer rope and then we get them in the barn...ten when we lead them out..one person is in front...if she decieds she need to go faster then you...pull back on the lead strap..what we did witht the person behind adn the leader...was that we twisted the tail..she got to learn of she didnt move..then her tail got twisted..she was broke to lead in 2 days...ALSO....washing them take alot of the fight outta them..and builds trust.. best of luck...we have 2 800# calves to get broke soon...
    AJ
     
  14. Christiaan

    Christiaan Dutch Highlands Farm

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    I've been tying her, but only for an hour or so at a time. With the holiday last week most of her training got skipped. I've got until March to get her broken in, so I think I'll make it. She is quite gentle and very curious, just not to sure about me telling her where to go. I think she'll come around pretty well. After New Year I'll have a stall in the barn available and I'll be able to get her further from her mother. I only have 3 acres and the paddock she is in is located in the winter sacrifice area. So, with mom around I'm not able to work her outside of the paddock.
    If someone would like to give me the neighbors place in addition to mine, I wouldn't say no!
     
  15. Christiaan

    Christiaan Dutch Highlands Farm

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    I haven't been able to do too much the past few days, away lots and with snow on the ground the footing was rather iffy.
    I let her out of the paddock yesterday as it was getting too muddy. She ran straight toward her mother, past her and went to the pile of hay. Been hanging out with her brother and pretty much ignoring her mother, so I think she's weaned. Snow's gone, so tomorrow I'll put a longer rope on her and do some lead exercises and then tie her near the water trough. My arthritic knees and ankles don't take kindly to chasing a young beast around the pasture.