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Showing Cattle for Beginners: Do’s and Don’ts

Showing Cattle for Beginners: Do’s and Don’ts

Whether you're new to showing cattle or a seasoned pro, remember some key do's and don'ts. You can't control everything in the ring, so focus on what you can and make the most of it!


Do’s of Showing Cattle:


Practice Early

Before the excitement of the cattle show even begins, there's a crucial period of preparation that can't be overlooked. Success in the show ring is often the result of months of consistent effort and training, not just a few weeks of last-minute practice.

The champions you admire at big national shows have put in the work well in advance, sticking to a strict training regimen.

It's important to recognize that each animal is unique and will respond differently to training. Starting early gives you plenty of time to prepare your cattle for the show. Early training also helps build a trusting relationship between you and your animal, making it easier for them to follow your lead with a halter.

Show Stick & Halter

Becoming familiar with using a show stick and show halter is a critical part of your show preparation. The show stick is a tool that can greatly influence your performance in the ring, so mastering its use is key.

Key Tips for Show Stick Training:

Showing Cattle for Beginners: Do’s and Don’ts
  1. Hold it Properly: Grip the show stick firmly but not too tightly, ensuring you have good control over it. Hold it at a comfortable angle, typically at a 45-degree angle to the ground.

  2. Positioning Your Cattle: Use the show stick to guide your cattle into the correct stance. This often means placing their feet so that they stand square or in a slightly staggered position to showcase their body structure. This is often called setting up your animal. Gently place the show stick near their feet and apply slight pressure to guide them into position without causing distress.

  3. Maintaining Attention: The show stick can also be used to keep your cattle alert and attentive. Lightly scratching or tapping the belly or brisket area with the show stick can encourage your animal to hold its head high and maintain an alert posture.

  4. Guidance and Direction: In the show ring, you must steer your cattle in specific directions or guide them to move forward. Use the show stick gently against the animal's side to direct them. It's important to do this subtly and calmly to avoid startling the animal or appearing forceful.

  5. Showmanship: A show stick isn't just a tool for handling your cattle; it's also part of your presentation. How you hold and use the show stick reflects on your showmanship skills. Hold it confidently but relaxed, and use smooth, deliberate movements to communicate with your animal.

  6. Practice Makes Perfect: Before entering the show ring, spend ample time practicing with the show stick and your cattle. This will help you become more comfortable and skilled in its use, and your cattle will become more responsive to your cues. Practicing in an environment similar to the show ring can also help acclimate your cattle to the process.

Finally, getting really good at using your show halter is also super important for doing well in cattle shows. A show halter isn't just any halter—it usually has a chain, making it a bit different from the ones you might use every day. It creates different pressure points for cattle than the everyday halter.

Also, practicing with the show halter lets you tweak your presentation skills. You'll get better at setting up your cattle so they look their best, making quick adjustments without anyone noticing, and guiding your animal with gentle cues. These little details can make your performance stand out, catching the judges and the audience's attention.


Even though cattle shows are not fashion contests for the showmen, it's still important to look sharp and professional when you enter the ring. Some shows will tell you exactly what to wear, but if they don't, here's a simple guide: Go for a clean pair of jeans (no holes!) and tuck a nice shirt into them. Button-downs or polo shirts are usually a good bet. Don't forget to wear a belt – it really pulls the whole look together. For shoes, something with a hard toe is best to keep your feet safe, but any kind of shoe that covers your toes will do the job.



Showmanship is all about how well you present your animal, not necessarily about having the best animal in the show. This levels the playing field, allowing everyone to shine based on their presentation skills and their bond with their animal. It's crucial to be perfectly in tune with your animal, guiding it with your show stick and posing exactly as needed when the judge is watching.

Also, being considerate of others in the ring is a part of good showmanship. Maintain a proper distance from others, match the pace in the ring and adjust your animal's position smoothly without disrupting others.

When it comes to setting up your calf or heifer, aim for precision. The front feet should line up right under the shoulders, and the back leg that's closer to the judge should be slightly set back. However, make sure not to overextend your animal. This attention to detail in your animal's stance can really make a difference in how you're judged.


Know Your Animal

Before you enter the ring, you want to know your animal’s strengths and weaknesses. You want to ensure your animal looks its best whenever the judge looks at you. If you know which areas of your animal are more flawed, you will be better able to hide those areas with different positions, like moving a back leg up farther or changing the height at which you hold its head up.

It's also super important to know what keeps your animal calm. If they start to get anxious, figure out if giving them belly rubs or scratching under their chin or brisket helps them relax. Pulling hard on the halter might just make them more upset, especially if they're not used to it. So, practice with them at home in various places. This way, you can learn what makes them nervous and how to soothe them.  

Don’ts of Showing Cattle


Don’t Rush

When you're showing your animal in the ring, it's key to walk at a steady pace. Try to match the speed of others in your class and stick to a pace you've practiced before the show. Moving too quickly or too slowly can affect how the judge sees your animal. Especially, rushing up behind the animal in front of you can look bad to the judge. You want to keep enough space between you and the animal ahead so the judge can clearly see yours and everyone else's animals.

Also, remember to be polite to the other participants. If you need to circle around and get your animal back into position, make sure you do it without bothering the other animals or getting in their way.


Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

Everyone starts somewhere. The people you look up to and those who have been showing for a long time will have more practice and a larger skill set than you may have. With dedication, you can reach their level too!


Don’t Be Late

Arriving on time for your class is key to giving yourself the best chance to win or advance. Coming in late will create a bad impression with the judge. Also, if you rush to the ring, your animal might not behave or perform well. To avoid these issues, make sure to get there early, but not so early that you're waiting around for too long


Eye Contact

Making eye contact and watching where the judge is in the ring is very important. You want to ensure you are watching for any signs the judge may be giving. However, you do not want to only stare at the judge. If you only stare directly at the judge, you will lose sight of how your animal looks. This can lower your place in the class if the judge is not getting a good look at the animal.


By following these do’s and don’ts, you can embark on your cattle-showing journey with confidence and success. With dedication and patience, you'll be well on your way to standing out in the ring!



Delaney Barber



The Journey to the Ring

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