Goat hoof trimming is a vital part of livestock management. Trimming goat hooves should be done on a regular basis to determine if there are any hoof problems. Overgrown hooves expose goats to lameness and infections that can spread among the herd. In fact, goats with overgrown hooves are susceptible to joint/tendon problems and arthritis, consequently they go off-feed and stop exercising. Unkempt bucks place an enormous amount of stress on hind legs during mounting causing great pain on their feet. For this reason, goats will refuse to mate lowering the reproductive rates of the flock.
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Goat Hoof Trimming
The frequency of goat hoof trimming depends on the goat’s age, level of activity, nutritional level, genetics and the environment. Goats living in rocky terrains will require less frequent trimming than those living in a grass pasture. This is because their hooves wear against rocks and rough surfaces. Also, some types of goats such as Boer goats require frequent hoof trimming even in rocky terrain. Hooves of goats that are fed a high energy and protein diet tend to grow more rapidly thus also need to be trimmed often. It is recommended that breeders trim goat hooves every 6-8 weeks, however the easiest way is to conduct frequent check-ups. Keeping accurate records of goat hoof trimming dates will help to determine the exact time period to perform hoof care. As always, when trimming goat hooves, pay attention to the health of the hoof.
Tools needed to trim goat hooves
Goat hoof trimming takes some practice to master hence the need for the correct set of tools, especially for beginners. Ideally, goat hoof trimming tools should be used. These include affordable manual trimmers and air compressor driven shears which are relatively more expensive but best when dealing with a large herd. Pruning shears also work. A sharp knife can also be used; however it is dangerous to the goat as well as the operator. In addition, the task tends to be more difficult compared to using hoof trimmers. Some optional tools include a rasp to make a smooth finish on the hooves, some iodine, turpentine or copper sulphate to treat foot rot, foot scald or abscesses. It is generally best for beginners to invest in the appropriate goat hoof trimming equipment.
Steps for trimming goat hooves
Step 1: Positioning the goat
The first step in trimming goat hooves is to position the goat properly. Position or tie the goat next to a wall or fence. This allows the person trimming the hooves to stand to the side of the goat and control it by gently bracing it against the fence or wall. It is best to start out with the front leg that is farthest from the wall. Facing to the goat’s tail, lean down and pick up the front leg at the pastern so that the knee bends naturally revealing the bottom of the hoof. Take care not to twist the leg way out to the side as this will drive the goat off balance causing it to squirm in an attempt to get comfortable. For trimming the back hooves, the hind legs should normally be brought back straight behind the goat. Another option is to squat down and rest the goat’s hoof on your knee. Note that the leg should always be folded with the natural movement of the joints to avoid discomfort which makes trimming goat hooves difficult.
Step 2: Cleaning the Hooves
Closely observe the hoof. Goat hooves grow from the sides down and the overgrowth folds under the hoof creating an ideal breeding ground for rot and dirt. If there is any sign of rot, appropriate treatment should be administered. Using hoof shears, clear out excess mud, manure and small stones. Take care not to dig or scrap too hard as the centre is made up of softer tissue than the outer rim. Digging or scraping too hard can cause bleeding.
Step 3: Trimming Goat Hooves
Goat hoof trimming is best done immediately after rain or heavy due when the hoof wall is softer. During dry periods, goats should be made to stand in a wet area for 2 to 3 hours before trimming. Start by cutting the tips of the dewclaws. Remove small bits at frequent intervals to avoid bleeding as a result of trimming too short. Trim the outside wall at the tip of the toe so that it is even with the sole. Remove any bent over or excess wall until it is level to the sole all the way around. The sole should be trimmed down in this slices until the heel, sole and wall form a flat surface upon which the goat should stand at a correct angle of about 45 degrees. If the sole appears pink, stop trimming as it will lead to bleeding, pain, infections and lameness. If over trimming occurs, make sure to disinfect. When trimming goat hooves, make sure that the inside wall is cut slightly lower than the outside to allow most of the goat’s weight to be on the outside hoof wall where it should be placed naturally. Sometimes, the heel is the part that grows too fast causing the goat to walk on the back of the hoof above the heel. In this case, be sure that you trim the hooves more often. After trimming, use a hoof rasp to give the hooves a smooth finish. When held together, the bottom of the hooves should look clean and even.
The hoof should be kept clean and free of debris for a few days following trimming so as to prevent infections. If the hooves are overgrown, it usually takes more than a single trimming session to perfect them. In such a case, goat hoof trimming should be done frequently though little at a time until the hooves gradually return to their proper shape, size and angle. When goat hooves are trimmed regularly, trimming sessions eventually become easy and consume less time and energy. Trimming goat hooves frequently also decreases chances of the goats developing foot problems.