Wednesday, March 20, 2013

All About Goats: A Guide to Trimming Goat Hooves

Trimming our goats' hooves is not always fun, but it is necessary to keep healthy, happy goats. Regular hoof trimming can keep any issues like hoof rot from causing serious damage. It is important to both back-yard goat enthusiasts and the experienced goat keeper to practice proper hoof maintenance. The only way to get better at trimming goat hooves is to practice hoof trimming regularly, so let's get to it!


This kid is, are you?
1) Preparation is key!

-If you aren't sure if you have the tools for the job, check out one of my previous posts to get everything you need!

-Have what you need easily accessible.We make sure to wear clothes with pockets large enough for the tools we are using, but a hoof trimmer holster or even a bucket will make sure you don't lose tools in the shavings.

-Don't be a hero! Ask for help when you need it. Goats won't kick like a horse of cow, put they can knock the hoof trimmer from your hand or escape from the stand. Your goat doesn't mean to be difficult, but disrupting their routines can make them nervous and excitable.

-Wear the appropriate gear! Remember, goats are large, have horns and weigh a ton (not literally). Our goat Ace stepped on my sister's foot yesterday and it's horribly discolored and bruised today. It might not have been so bad if she was wearing boots instead of flip flops!

-Create a calendar of routine care and maintenance. We track when kids are born, when shots need to be given, and basic hoof care. Use a calendar as a guideline, not as a hard and fast appointment. We don't trim hooves when does are heavily pregnant with a kid which means they get off schedule. Just pick back up once the kids are a few weeks old and the mom is comfortable.

2) Have a Plan of Action

-Is this the first time you've trimmed your goat's hooves? Are they easily startled? Then it's probably best that you trim in a stand.

-However, when cutting new moms Honey & Delilah's hooves, we made sure to do what kept them comfortable. Putting Honey on a trimming stand away from her kids would have been more stressful for everyone involved. Instead, we kept her in the pen and off the stand. While it was more work for us, and we got up close and personal with the unmistakably foul odor of hooves, it kept the kids from crying and Honey from panicking. No one wants to have angry momma goats after them! The kids are still too young to have their hooves trimmed.

-Know which goats you plan to work on, and allow a reasonable amount of time. If you get behind, instead of rushing to finish trimming all of your goats' hooves just plan to finish up on another day. It's far worse to rush through a job then to put it off for another day.

3) Clean hooves & Shave hair

-By cleaning the goat's hooves first, small lines become visible that give the person trimming a guide of where to cut, and how much to cut.

-To make it easier to see, trim the hair around the front feet. This strategy has the bonus of giving the appearance of the clean/neat hooves without doing much work yet! When taking a goat to fair, goat hooves have to be cleaned, trimmed and shaved.

4) Start Trimming
Image Courtesy of Storey's Guide to Raising Meat Goats: Managing, Breeding, Marketing by Maggie Sayer 
-The hoof trimmer we use cuts quickly and through a lot of the nail. While this is a positive, don't go crazy cutting! Follow the lines of the hoof with your hoof trimmers to make sure you aren't cutting too much off at once.

-If the nail bleeds, don't panic! Stop the bleeding, level off the hoof and move on to the next foot. Basic hoof care shouldn't cause bleeding, but it doesn't necessarily mean you have done something wrong. When in doubt, stop cutting. When it has been awhile since the last trimming, cutting off too much can be painful. Trimming changes the way a goat walks, so drastically changing can cause them to strain their joints. This is why having a schedule is so important!

-Just like your own nails, goat hooves grow at different speeds. Delilah and Bella have very fast growing hooves that require more frequent trimming. A newborn kid doesn't need their hooves trimmed. Goats in dry pasture versus a wet stall will have harder, stronger nails. Wet pens can help create hoof rot (a bacteria that thrives in muddy ground and can cause lameness), so be aware!

I hope this gives you a good place to start. Have questions? Comments? You can find me on Facebook, twitter or in the comments!

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