Hoof trimming is not a common thing on our farm. The cow-calf herd my farmer and I raise are all at pasture, and this includes our Limousin bull, August. Typically, cattle raised at pasture don’t have a need for a hoof trimmer because the hooves naturally get trimmed as the cow is walking across the pasture every day.
Earlier this spring though, my farmer noticed that August’s hooves were starting to grow inwards and we knew right away that was not normal and that we could not leave the hooves this way. A cows hooves is their shoes, they walk on those everyday, all day and obviously applying a lot of weight to those hooves (August weighed in around 1800 lbs), so we have to take care of them.
A little cow hoof anatomy; cattle are cloven footed animals, meaning their hooves have 2 digits, instead of one solid entity like that of a horse. The 2 digits are called claws and the outer claw on a hoof is called the lateral claw, while the inner claw on the hoof is called the medial claw. Bovine hooves grow about 1/5 to ¼ of an inch of new growth every month. Any hoof overgrowth can cause discomfort to the animal. The bones in the hoof are meant to sit squarely inside the hoof. When hooves become too long, the weight-bearing surfaces of the hoof can be changed and unbalanced, and the bones can begin to splay inside the foot. The main goal of trimming hooves is to restore the natural shape of the hoof so that weight is distributed evenly and in a manner that is best for all structures of the hoof and the comfort of the animal.
So, we loaded August up last Saturday and drove him about 1hr away to a hoof trimmer named Duane. Duane had been trimming cattle hooves since 1994 and trims around 400 head of cattle a week. The day we saw him, he was trimming up 4H cattle’s hooves and a herd of around 200 angus/angus cross cattle… and August.
The whole process is really quick and doesn’t bother the cattle once their in the chute. Sometimes, they don’t really want to get in the chute, just the unknown and sometimes the personality of that particular cow.
For hoof trimming you have to use a special chute, a hydraulic chute. This specific chute that our hoof trimmer used secured the cow, tilted the cow on its side, then the floor dropped out of the chute and that is how he could get to the cows hooves to clean and trim them.
August is secure here, the hydraulic chute was made to do this!
The floorboards drop out of the chute and the hooves are secured.
And now the trimming, you can see the hoof trimmings flying! They are like an incredibly hard nail, so stand out of the way or one will smack you.
Yes, I know that from experience.
The hoof trimmer will also give the hooves a general assessment, looking for any other sort of ailments that could hinder the health of the animal. August had great looking hooves, happy to say.
August got treated with fresh bedding and yummy hay when he got home.
I think I need to go get myself a pedicure now.