Clipping is an Art.
Clipping is Art. Trust me, those of us without artistic ability know where our limits lie and so do our family members.
I've watched my husband clip out cattle for 30 years now and it never ceases to amaze me. He can go from a calf that looks like Shaggy Dog to a Majors Show Winning Heifer in no time at all. If you put those same clippers in my hands, the poor calf would go from Shaggy Dog to Balding Hippie. I don’t have a picture to show you my lack of ability and there is good reason for that.
A couple of years ago, we were at our home county fair getting ready for our younger son’s last show as a junior there. I’m not sure how many calves he had but I know there was at least three. The guys had worked at dialing in this little Angus heifer we’d raised and it had to be around 100 degrees in the shade that day. They were putting the finishing touches on her legs with sweat pouring off them. I stepped back and took a look. While I don’t know how to produce the finished product, I do know what I’m looking for. And those 3 or 4 long hairs in her tail head were not what we were wanting. I innocently picked up the clippers and suddenly all other work on her stopped.
“WHAT are you doing?”
“There’s a couple of long hairs here. I’m just going to whack them off.”
“NO. Hand over the clippers and step away.”
Artists are moody and do not like others messing with their handiwork.
We’ve taken time to teach a couple of fitting and clipping classes to 4-Her’s over the years. Some have the desire and not the talent. Some have the talent and no desire. And then there’s the cattle artists that have both. Fitting and clipping are talents and skills that are honed and developed just as drawing and painting are. Being able to picture what the end product should be when you’re starting a crazy palate instead of a blank slate is a sight to behold. Shaving a calf’s head not only changes its appearance, it changes the attitude as well. You can almost sense the change in the animal from “I’m just a calf” to “I’m a Champion”.
Clipping the legs turn them from a scrubby fence line to a well manicured hedge row. Carving a bit more or bit less curve to the leg can give the illusion of a sounder calf. We had a heifer one year that the guys carved a little more curve to her and the judge decided she wasn’t sound structurally. The next show (a week or two later) they left a little more hair and curved a little less and the judge declared her sound as a cat. Art is knowing what the eye of the beholder finds beautiful. Clipping is the same. Shoulders and necks blend smoothly and beautifully and hair can fill in the heart area to make a tight hearted calf appear smoother from the shoulders back. Clipping tops and underlines creates the illusion of a strong top and a deep and level underline. Tailheads are clipped to show a wider rump and levelness. The tails are bobbed off and tear
dropped to create a more youthful appearance.
And just like any other artist, fitters like to have their work recognized. The boys often heard comments on how well fit their calves were. I’m pretty sure many of the judges thought they were complimenting a team of fitters back in the barn and not the young men on the lead. The Chi and Maine Anjou Jr. Nationals have provided a great training ground for fitters in their Fitting Contests each year. When the boys won the Chi Fitting Contest with Cody McCullough in 2013, Wayne and Barb Ohlrich paid them the greatest compliment by saying they would gladly have them come work for them sometime. Most people don’t understand how much effort, practice and talent it takes to fit and clip cattle. Be sure to thank them....because, like artists, they often don’t make big money doing what they love....they do it because they love it.