How to set up a calf

Show tip from our Strategies for Success series on cattle. 


Teaching Your Calf to Set Up 

As soon as you get your calf trained to lead well, you should begin teaching your calf to set up. Ideally, the more you work with your calf, the better you and your calf will get at walking into the perfect position. 

Walking into the position means that when you stop your calf, it will stop with its feet square or offset. 

Remember that no two calves are the same and will learn at different rates. No matter what, teaching a calf to set up takes patience and time. 

What You Will Need: 
Breaking Halter
Leather Show Halter
Show Stick  

  • It is okay to start teaching your calf with a rope halter, but be sure to practice with your show halter as well to get your calf used to the different feel. 
  • A rope or show halter should sit on your calf with the noseband about two inches below the eye. 
  • When you're practicing setting up your calf, you want to be facing the calf walking backwards to walk them into place. So, at this point the show stick should be in your right hand and the halter in the left hand.
  • When teaching a calf to stop with its front feet in the correct position, use your foot to stop the calf's foot from continuing to walk. This will position the calf to keep its front feet together when stopping.
  • Lead from the left side of the calf with your hand 6-12 inches from its face, and practice starting, stopping and setting up your calf. Carry your show stick with the point downward.
  • It is suggested you take 3 steps and make the calf stop. Repeat this step multiple times so that the calf learns to stop with the feet in the proper place.
  • Your calf will eventually learn to set its front feet square every time you stop, which will make walking its back feet into position even easier. 
  • If you need to move a foot back while training, lightly press the end of your show stick in the hoof split while applying backward pressure on the halter until your calf moves where you want it. To move a foot forward, pull forward on the halter with light pressure and gently use the hook end of your show stick under the dew claw until the foot moves to your desired position. Your calf will eventually associate backward or forward pressure on the halter with setting up once you stop. Ideally, upon stopping, the calf will walk into its setup automatically. 
  • Setting your calf’s front feet too close together will cause its chest to appear too narrow while setting them too far apart will make your calf look off balance. The ideal set will make your calf look balanced and more refined. 
  • Setting your calf's back feet too close together will again make the calf look narrow and take away from its structure. Setting the back feet too wide thins out the hind quarters and does not look natural. 

 

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