- Light exposure - Hours of daylight determine winter or summer hair coats
- Temperature - Along with less daylight, cold temperatures help increase the amount of hair
- Nutrition - Proper nutrition equals good hair growth
- Health - Sick or unhealthy calves have coarse hair coats
- Genetics - Some breeds and bloodlines produce more hair than others
You and your calf are about to spend a lot of time in the wash rack and the grooming chute. Keeping hair clean and groomed is important. Think about your own hair. Have you ever been on a camping trip where you couldn't, or didn't wash your hair for a couple of days? How did it look and feel? The same thing happens to a calf's hair. If left dirty, it gets heavy with oil, dirt and manure, and loses its softness and shine.
I recommend a good wash with mild soap three times a week. There are lots of soaps out there specific for washing you calf. They are made specifically for calf hair and skin. Use them if you like. I prefer a cheaper soap: Dawn liquid dish soap. It is safe enough for calf skin and hair, but can remove the worst dirt and oil. Think about all the critters they wash with it after an oil spill!
When it comes to washing, remember these things.
- Start with water down low on the legs and slowly wet up the animal's body. This will prevent a cold shock that your calf will not appreciate.
- Use low water pressure. Although it seems great to crank the water on all the way and be able to blast dirt and manure off your calf's toes, it will not feel good on their body.
- Do not spray into their face or ears. Use a sponge or cup filled with water to gently wet the face and around the ears.
- Wet the entire body and then use your hands to work the soap into a lather over the whole body. This will ensure you have washed every part of their body from their head to their toes.
- Rinse from the top down. Water flows down and will carry the dirt and oil with it. Starting at the top rinses everything down and off their body.
- Once everything is washed and rinsed, use the back (the side without teeth) of a cattle comb and squeegee excess water off the body.
Before you turn the blower on, use your calf comb to comb all the body hair straight up. This is part of training the hair to not lay flat against the skin. If you have not been working the hair long, it will want to lay back down pretty quick, but after several comb outs and blow dries, you will be happy to see how easy it will comb up and stay up. Combing out also helps to remove loose dead hair. You may need to clean your comb several time of loose hair the first few times you go through the process, but a few weeks later, you may not clean out the dead hairs until your done combing.
Once it is time to fire up the blow dryer, I go to the front of the animal and start drying the neck, shoulder, ribs and back to the rump in a quick five minute first pass. This tends to blow out a large portion of the water. While doing this, I always blow at an up angle to help train the hair to stay up off of the body. After this pass, a quick comb up of the hair and then go back to the front and start a slower drying of the entire body. How do you know when your calf is dry? I look to see if any mist is blowing out of their hair. Then I take my hand and rub their hair. If my hand gets wet, then they are not done. If they feel damp, but your hand does not get wet, they are dry enough.
After all the hair is dry, it is time to condition the hair. Why? Soap not only removes dirt, but the natural oil that coats the calf's hair. Without this natural oil, the hair will become dry, brittle and loses its shine. Since it takes some time for the natural oil to come back after a wash, spray on some type of conditioner for calf hair. Comb the hair up to work the conditioner in, and then give it a blow dry if needed.
Repeat this process over and over again until your calf is done with show season. You will be amazed how much their looks and hair will change into the "fuzzy" kind you want. A good clip job will then shape the hair and body to make the calf look their absolute best.
When it comes to working calf hair, you only get out what you put into it. So, work hard, wash and rinse consistently, and be ready to be rewarded with a fuzzy calf in the end.
Kit Carson County
Golden Plains Area
Colorado State University Extension