Halter Training

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May 24, 2016
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SW Michigan
I'm running a very small herd of registered Belted Galloways for breeding stock. The market seems to want halter trained animals and I'm looking for techniques others have used with success. What age do you start and all the details please.

the earlier the better really, though you can do it as yearlings too.
first thing you need is a good halter, I use the Hamilton "Control" halters that have a chain under the chin.. they pull, it hurts. After not too long they figure that out and stop pulling.

Next, to begin with I try to lead them where they want to go anyhow.. if they're locked up in a corral, bring them out to eat grass, after a while they'll be bored with that and want company and a drink, so they're happy to go back.. happy both ways makes them follow.
Pulling on them if they aren't moving (skidding them) doesn't help in my experience.. just need patience.. .also, if one is particularly feisty and is bound to tear off, tie on to a post.. once they learn they can do that and overpower you, its much harder to break the habit.
I got my training from Kris- Fire Sweep Simmental. But since I am a beginner, I might be able to help. This fall I broke 8 calves. I started them in the first month after birth. I am 66 so not going to wrestle with them after they get some size on them.

I think being calm and going easy with them helps a lot. I never lose my patience. Just work with them and let them them be calves.

I noticed that if they get rowdy, it is best to release the tension on their halter and give them some time to relax. If one takes off, it works great to get to their side and pull their head from an angle perpendicular to them. If you get caught behind them, you better be a bear if you intend to hold them.
I can endorse what Nesi said, I was posting as he was.

For working steers/potential oxen we started working them when they were just a couple of days old. If they are with the cow that may be a bit tricky. Our vet buys a couple of steers from us each year for his daughters 4H/FFA projucts and takes any bull we're retaining along with them. They halter break them primarily by putting a halter on them and just leaving it with a rope to drag around for a couple of days. Then they will tie them and groom them every day. Surprising how a weaned animal can get so calm and easy going in such short order. There is always at least one blow up and they just let it fight it out. This year as they were loading the steers on the trailer for the fair weigh in, the steer that had never had an excited day and was darn near like a dog, just went nuts and broke away and speared itself on the rear hay spike in the rumen. They got him back in his pen and he never acted up again and he never missed a meal and healed up with just a scar. He is now known as Spike. They like for them to have that blow up for the first week or so and get it out of their system.
We put little halters on our calves at about one week and we work with them quite often. Of course we have a small herd and are able to do this. However, it always pays off for us in the end.
Nesi, the Hamilton control halters come in either nylon strap or rope with the chin chain. Which are you using? I'm assuming these are when they get a little bigger? I picked up some rope halters but was told that they hurt them and shouldn't use them.
This is a great video to watch if you have never halter broke an animal. Go slow, earn the trust, and start when they are little. Like BR said above, why beat yourself up over a bigger calf when you can start them small?
We have so many that we work them about twice a month from 30 days old on, by the time they are ready to wean, they are good enough to walk and tie.
That's similar to the rope halter I have. Twice a month is enough? I will probably do it more often just because I will only have a few calves. The trick will be separating them from momma without getting run over.
The more often the better
Here's the one I use on the yearlings.. it's supposedly "cow" sized but by 18 months they've outgrown it, might work for your older animals..
https://www.amazon.com/Hamilton-Control ... B0027AFCAY

I also do what Dun says.. have them drag a rope behind them, some cow will occasionally step on it, or momma will lay on it, and they'll just have to learn to wait, no use getting all in a tissy about it.

I did it with a bull calf I raised, now at 3 years old he still follows pretty well even though the only time I halter him is to bring him to the cows (once a year)
My method, for what it's worth. Works for me. I think it made me a lot of money over the years because people bought calves for their kids from us because we had a reputation for calves that behaved on a rope. Genetics plays a big part, but time and effort do too.

IMO, halter breaking is secondary to them tolerating you being close to their face. If they are afraid to have you stand at their head, you are in for a rodeo.

Get them in and get them used to you being close. I put them in a 10X12 stall and start working them with a broom. Brush, rub or tap them with the broom. Keep it on them constantly. They'll eventually decide they can't get away from you. When they stop, slowly work your way up the handle until you can use your hands on them. Might take an hour. Might take days. Usually see a big change in 10 minutes.

I've had calves go from bolting when I came through the gate to standing on a slack halter in an hour, but most take a few sessions. I start them as young as I can and work them as often as I can.

Once they settle down and let you put the halter on them, tie them and keep scratching or rubbing them with your hands. Then give them a little alone time to learn they can't fight the halter. But not too alone. It's important that you have them tied to something they can't move, because if they learn they can use strength to get away from the halter, you are going to struggle. Also important that you have a quick release knot because they will figure out a way to contort themselves into some horrible position where you can't get the rope slack.

When they are done with the training session, I like to let them have some rope and put a feed pan in front of them. They'll associate the tie up sessions with food and that can only help you.

Once you have them trained to tie, which I think of as not fighting the halter even when you are near their face and touching them, then I go on to leading.

I try to make sure they are not going to try to get away before leading. If I suspect they might still be flighty, I'll tie 25ft or so of extra rope onto the halter lead. That usually makes it easier for me to hang on long enough to get a wrap on a post so they don't get the idea that getting away is even possible. Just watch how you hold that rope so it doesn't end up wrapped around some part of you!

Some calves will follow like a dog without ever needing a pull on the rope. Those are rare. You want the calf to be aware of the pressure of the rope and not like it.

For some calves this takes a chain under the chin. For some it takes a steel breaking halter. I like a regular rope halter with the lead end pulled out of the rope loop and a chain splice used as the rope guide. This results in slack on their chin as soon as the pull on the lead stops. That's want you want them to learn. If the calf steps forward the pressure on its chin stops. They learn to take a step forward when they feel the pressure. They aren't dumb, and soon they'll catch on to take a step forward when you start moving away.

Your attitude is important in all this. If you yell, yank or move around quickly, it won't go easy.

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