The Road Home

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Hoof Trimming 101

Keeping the hooves on our goats trimmed is one thing I do very poorly. It doesn't get done near often enough. We have never had a case of hoof rot, but our goats would be much better off if their hooves were trimmed more often. Then again, so would I, because by the time I get around to it, it wouldn't be such a chore. That being said, here is a hoof trimming session.

I started off with One Stripe because she will be kidding sometime in the next month, or so my guess-timate says.

To trim the hooves, I bring the doe to the milk stand. This elevates the animal so I don't have to kneel down to reach their hooves. It also gives them a familiar place and some food to distract them while I work. Some of our does don't mind this as much as others. The first time I trimmed Copper's hooves she cried the whole time like I was torturing her. It was so loud, it was almost funny.

In the past, we have used bypass pruning shears for this job. They work pretty well and aren't near as dangerous as regular hoof shears. I have difficulty holding them at the right angle to get a good cut, but it can be done quite successfully.

Last year I bought some regular hoof shears. The first time I used them I thought they worked great! That is until I got to the last foot. The goat jerked her foot away, which they always do, and I cut my finger deeply. So much for that. I haven't used them since....until today. Needless to say, these shears work exceptionally well, but you have to be extremely careful or you will end up with a serious injury.

If you are learning how to trim hooves the best thing you can do is find someone to teach you. Books are great and have some good drawings in them, but it is hard to get a feel for what you should do without watching it. You need to see what a hoof should look like after it is trimmed. This will give you something to shoot for. The base of the hoof should end up parallel with the top of the hoof where the hair starts, not slanted down at the front or curved up in the back.

It is better to take off small pieces than a big chunk. You don't want to cut them too short and make them bleed. It's not a major problem if they do, but I always feel really bad when that happens. If it does, spray the hoof with iodine, and it will be fine. Do keep an eye on the goat for a day to two to make sure no complications occur.

She is asking me if I am finished yet. One Stripe is very tame and easy to handle, but she is ready for me to quit lifting her feet up. One of the things we have discovered along the way is that it is easier to trim hooves when it has been raining or the ground is wet. The hooves are much more pliable then. I have tried trimming hooves in the summer when it is hot and dry and it was like trying to cut a rock. I had to give up and wait until wet weather came and softened them up some.

It is bad enough that I grab her back feet, but I have never met a goat yet that likes to have their front feet lifted up.

This is what happens, making it a little more difficult to get to her hoof. We always clip the goat's collar to the leash that is attached to the fence by the milk stand to help keep the goat in place.

These hooves are pretty long. If I take care of them right, I should trim them again in a month or so to get them back in better shape. Then I can wait about three months before they will need attention again. Frank is stronger than I am and it is easier for him to trim the hooves. Another thing we have discovered is the goats are more at ease if I do the trimming. We figure it is because I milk them and handle them much more than he does, therefore they aren't as nervous or skittish. Just another observation.

Sometimes the heel area will need to be trimmed and sometimes it won't. There are some goats that have a hard area grow in between the two hoof sections. It is difficult to get to and I am always worried about cutting them up between their 'toes'. It seems to run in families. One Stripe doesn't have that problem, but Ivory does and her mother Katie did.

One Stripe is more than ready to be finished and so am I. This will hold her until after her kids are born. Did I tell you that I can't wait? That I love baby goats? I do!

Here are a couple of sites that give pretty good explanations or depictions of how to trim hooves: Onion Creek Ranch and How To Trim a Goats Hooves for Dummies. I would recommend acquiring several 'goat books' if you have not already done so.

There are several YouTube videos that you can watch about trimming hooves. I found a few where people lay the goat on it's back. This video shows some of the things I tried to explain. If you can find someone that will show you and give you a chance to practice, it would make it easier for you to learn. It will be nerve racking the first time you try it and you will make one of them bleed, but hopefully not yourself. This is one of those instances, kind of like milking, that takes practice to increase your skill and confidence.

Trimming hooves is one of those chores that needs to be done regularly, not just sometimes when it is overdue. It's kind of like cutting your toenails. Sometimes you just keep putting it off and the next thing you know you have a hole in your sock. If there are things you know you need to prepare, don't keep putting them off. There may come a day when that last bit of preparing you did will keep you on your feet. But if you continue to put it off for another day, you may come up lame.

Until next time - Fern


  1. We use the milking stand too. They always behave better there and with food :)
    The sheep, you place on their bottoms to do the job.
    Great tutorial!

  2. Great Information, and the photos are a real help. The youtube was very good too. I actually have a Farrier Science Certification....years old... so horse hooves are easy to me but the tiny feet of a goat scare I could really hurt them. This was so good.