Unhandled Dexter


How do you tame an unhandled, terrified Dexter calf?  I'm sharing my secrets in this video.

To summarize:

  • Fill a bucket with tasty treats -- something sweet is ideal.  I mix a beef pellet with crushed corn, oats, and barley and then sprinkle a little agricultural molasses on top and mix well.  The molasses keeps them coming back. Keep these treats minimal until the rumen has had a chance to acclimate to prevent bloat.
  • Place the treat bucket on the ground and walk away.  Watch from a distance.
  • Once the calf associates the bucket with yummy treats, it's time to hold the bucket.  Use a yard chair at first because it can take quite some time before some calves feel comfortable approaching. BE PATIENT.
  • Once the calf will eat out of the bucket while you're holding it, you should charge a "scratch tax" for all treats.  This means every time they get a treat from the bucket, they must allow you to touch them.  No more free treats! Continue this until the calf stays calm regardless of where you touch them.
  • Next, you should move to asking the calf to follow the bucket.  Give the calf a taste of the treats and then walk a good distance away.  The calf should follow.  Do this several times in each practice session along with the "scratch tax".
  • When your calf has mastered all this - it's time to halter and begin post training.

Some calves will do this in a day.  Some will take weeks.  The key is patience.  If you ever lose your cool, the lesson will leave a negative feeling for the animal and the training may or may not be a success. 

I was able to successfully teach an 18-month-old heifer to walk on a halter using this exact method.  It's much easier with a calf 4-6 months old but if you're patient, if can be done at almost any age.

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