I’m pleased to have Shelly Lienemann of Windswept Plains Goat Dairy visiting today and showing us how she trims her goat’s hooves! Take it away Shelly!
Fat boys? Sandals? Wedges? Our summer foot wear can change with our mood, but goats require consistent, well-trimmed hooves to remain healthy, as well as fashionable.
Hoof trimming is a basic goat husbandry skill. Whether you own a commercial dairy or a couple of 4-H meat goats, proper and timely hoof trimming is vital. Hoof trimming makes the animals more comfortable, allows the pasterns and legs to grow normally, and prevents hoof rot.
I usually trim hooves every 6-12 weeks, but hoof growth varies greatly from goat to goat. Nubians seem to have slower growing hooves than Alpines or Saanens.
For showing, I trim about 3 days before a show. This allows a couple days for the hoof to regrow if I trim too close. Proper tools are necessary in order to safely and easily trim.
Tools for Trimming
- A stanchion (Jill here: Here is a post with details on how we built our stanchion/milking stand)
- Hoof trimmers or tree branch pruning shears
- Blood stop powder (just in case)
Some people use a rasp to file down the heel. I simply trim carefully in that area. Many goat supply catalogs sell hoof trimmers. In my 12 years of dairying, I have worn out two pairs of sharpened pruning shears from the hardware store, but lost many more.
How to Trim a Goat’s Feet
These first pictures show the front hoof of a 3-year old Nubian, Peppermint, who has gone about 10 weeks since she was last trimmed.
Notice the overgrowth on the side that is curling under. That is the portion that needs to be cut off.
I first take the doe and put her in the stanchion. I then gently, but firmly, grab and flex back the foreleg. I hold the leg in place with my left hand.
Depending on the goat, it will probably protest to standing on three legs. It is usually best to not start trimming until the doe has thrown her little hissy fit.
After the tantrum is over, I clean all the dirt and grime off of the hoof, so I can clearly see the sole. If the heel is not flush with the rest of the hoof, it needs to either be cut or filed down so that it is.
This doe in particular just needs to have the sides cut. After the first hoof is done, continue to do the other three hooves. I usually start at the front left hoof then move to the left rear, the right rear, and finish on the right fore.
In this picture, you can see me trimming the overgrown side portion.
On older goats, the dew claws need to be trimmed a bit when the dew claw starts getting long and curling down. The below photo shows me trimming a dew claw on my two year old buck, KJ. Dew claws require less frequent trimming than hooves.
It is very important to have the goat properly restrained and to take small cuts. You know when you are getting close to the quick or blood supply when you see the hoof color turning the slightest shade of pink. The longer the hoof, the easier it is to accidentally cut the quick.
This yearling alpine doe’s hooves grow very quickly. She is less than 10 weeks out of her last trim, but her rear pasterns are already showing the strain. You can easily see the overgrowth in the picture.
I accidentally snipped a little too close on this doe. This picture shows me putting on a healthy dusting of Blood Stop powder. Hoof cuts, along with udder scratches, look way worse than they actually are.
Of all the goats I have ever cut too deep, none of the have ever developed on infection or limped for more than an hour or two. If necessary or if worried, take the goat to a veterinarian. (But now your wallet will be bleeding.) You can see the difference in the stance after she is trimmed in this picture.
Proper hoof care is a necessity for a healthy and productive goat. At first, the task might seem daunting, but in actuality, with a little practice, it becomes easy and is quickly done. It’s much easier than shopping the latest styles for ourselves.
Shelly Lienemann is the owner of Windswept Plains Goat Dairy. You can follow her adventures on Facebook.