Part 3: Show preparation

12th May 2017

Rosie Hetherington Rosie Hetherington R_o_s_i_e_H

New entrant, passionate about UK agriculture. Blue Texel and Charollais sheep breeder. Newcastle university graduate, sheepdog enthusiast & Tesco Future farmer.

Please note: the views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of SellMyLivestock.

White coats are usually worn for showing, and many sheep specifically must be haltered. All cattle must be haltered, with rules on nose clips and number of attendants determined by the type of animal. Let’s just say some breeds take better to haltering than others! Whilst many people have different ways of halter training stock, a good place to start is tying them up, on a loose halter in a safe surrounding and letting them fight the halter themselves, as opposed to trying to hold onto them for dear life. Once the stock respect the halter and accept it, half the battle is done.

Finally, it’s important the animal is familiar with touch. Animals should be comfortable having their head/teeth/body/rump felt. As well as their udder or testicles inspected without jumping a mile! They should also be used to being ‘set up’ to stand square and look their best. Doing this before the show is strongly recommended, as you don’t want to be the person trying to wrestle a tup into submission or be hanging on the end of a heifers head collar..!

Depending on the breed/animal you may need to wash it before doing anything with it. You can buy specialist shampoos for this, or just use water. Many breeders can give you advice on what to do. Multiple washes may be required, so plan backwards from show time. Fleeces can take days to dry and ‘set’ so this needs to be done in advance of show day.

For some breeds, washing once may be all you have to do, with legs and heads receiving another wash on show day. Sometimes they can be coloured to appear whiter (you MUST check your shows rules on this!). Often sheep are ‘bloomed’; each individual breed usually has it’s own shade of bloom, so again ask other breeders for what is suitable. Although many breeds are shown with/without it. Cattle can also be treated but generally this is to enhance their natural colour.

If you plan on trimming your livestock, it’s often wise to invest in a head stand or trimming stand. Cattle you can just halter normally. To plan truly, sheep are often clipped in winter i.e February (depending on breed) so that they have a nice wool cover which is a suitable length to be trimmed. Trimming is done in stages depending on the effect you’re going for. There are no rules when it comes to trimming, really it is what works for you and your breed.

Generally wool is brushed up all over with a carding comb. Usually starting at the shoulder, you use hand shears to trim the wispy bits of the fleece off. By combing and trimming repeatedly you can create an even smooth appearance. Generally, more wool is left on the rump and back legs to accentuate the muscle of the sheep. With tails kept short to create a contrast with the legs. Heads can be trimmed back too to accentuate the face and neck. Trimmed animals can be ‘bloomed’ at this stage.

Once your sheep are ready, ideally before the show. The only job left is to keep them clean, coats can be bought for this purpose, but a clean field or well bedded pen will usually suffice. Products that ‘fix’ the fleece or hair, blacken hooves/heads/make them shine etc can also be used on the day of the show as a finishing touch. Cattle are generally combed on the day of the show to make their hair stand up and them appear bigger.

At the show, there will be a steward to organise the classes, and tell you what time roughly you should expect to be in. Many shows show oldest to youngest, males first then females. Or alternate the male and female classes. So it’s a good idea to ask. Make sure both you and the livestock are neatly presented to the judge and be prepared to answer questions about your animal e.g when was it born.  When showing, people generally stand on the left on the animal and often kneel to hold the sheep’s head up, or you can stand alongside and hold their head via the halter, depending on how well behaved the animal is!

A lot is trial and error, watching and speaking to others at shows is the quickest way to learn. Most people are approachable and very willing to help newcomers, so just go for it!

Further reading:

Part 2: What you need to know before you show

Part 1: 10 reasons to consider showing your livestock

What is takes to stage The Great Yorkshire Show

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