Youth Livestock Safety - 2 - Beef Safety: Behavior Basics

Beef Safety Lesson 2: Getting to Know Your Show Steer or Heifer

To work safely with your show steer or heifer, you should have a basic understanding of animal behavior in general, and the behavior patterns of beef animals in particular.

How an animal behaves is determined by genetics and experience. Show steers and heifers that are handled gently and quietly will have smaller flight zones and be easier to handle than animals that have been handled roughly. A steer or heifer that “spooks” easily must be handled differently than one that more easily adapts to changes. Handling differently means you should make changes slowly, watch closely as changes in location are made, and adjust handling methods accordingly.

Your show steer or heifer may be calm at home in familiar surroundings, but may become agitated when taken to a different location with new, strange sounds, such as the county fairgrounds.

Cattle have wide-angle vision, which means it can see behind itself without turning its head. Cattle will often shy away from shadows or puddles on the ground.

Do your best to make the steer’s (or heifer’s) first experience in different surroundings a positive one. For example, when moving an animal to a new pen have a full feed pan waiting.

Fear causes animals to run away from whatever scared them. Animals can develop permanent fear memories that can never be erased. This means that if your show steer or heifer has a bad experience when loaded on a trailer for the first time, it may be difficult to load again.

Animals are sensitive to high-pitched noises and are easier to handle when noise levels are low.

When you understand how your animal might act in different situations, you can use that understanding to help make livestock shows safer for everyone – exhibitors as well as people who are watching the show. Keeping your show steer or heifer calm is a good start.

Other strategies to keep in mind at the show include:

  • Be aware of where others are at the show – the general public (in the stands and walking around) and other exhibitors.
  • Move slowly to and from the show ring with your show steer or heifer. When you become excited or in a hurry, your show steer or heifer will sense the change in your behavior, which might scare it. Remember that fear causes an animal to run from whatever scares it.
  • Get to know your show steer’s/heifer’s behavior patterns and help it adjust to its new surroundings.
  • Do the best you can to keep away from crowded areas while leading your show steer or heifer. Many people do not understand how easy it is to scare a show animal, because they usually look so calm on the halter.
  • Practice, practice, practice show day activities – at home and again when you get to the show. Practice haltering; leading on halter; leading to the show ring; leading in the ring with your show stick; tying and untying at the pen or stall; leading beef to and from its pen or stall; opening and closing gates; washing and grooming chores. Your show steer or heifer will be much more comfortable doing activities it has practiced before and it will be less likely to be scared of the show ring if it’s been in it before the show.

Discussion Questions

With your project group members, discuss how you stay safe when working with your show steer or heifer.


  • How did it act the first time you led it on halter?
  • How did you feel the first time you led it?


How does your behavior affect the way your show steer or heifer behaves? How does its environment affect the way your show steer or heifer behaves?


Why is it important to practice showing your steer or heifer? What can you do to make sure your show steer or heifer is ready for the show ring?


List some ways you can you show others what you’ve learned about animal behavior?


Youth and trainers for beef cattle show