The family. We are a strange little band of characters trudging through life, sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another's desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that binds us all together.

- Erma Bombeck

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Trimming a Goat's Hooves

Today J and I went over to a gal's farm to trim her goats' hooves.  As kind as we are, this was not simply an act of kindness.  It was a barter.  We trim her 16 goats (including three LARGE STINKY bucks) and she gives us a beautiful registered Alpine yearling doe.

We arrived at about 9:30am ready to go.  She had a couple of tools available to us - a pair of straight trimmers (ours are curved), some horse nippers, and a rasp.  She also had a pretty cool portable headstall that her brother had welded for her.  It attached to the gate and allowed us to work inside the pasture with the goats instead of wrestling each one into the barn.

When you trim a goat's hooves, you generally start at the back.  There is a softer "pad" that creates the heal and it is nice to flatten that part out.  When the hoof grows too long, it folds across the inner sole of the hoof and the goat walks on it.  You have to trim that folded piece in order to see the actual hoof.  So, you slip the trimmers under whatever flap of the outer hoof that has bent over the pad, and trim it off.  Once you've done this, you can usually clean out the mud and gunk from inside the hoof walls and are able to see exactly where you want to trim.

The end goal is to create a flat clean surface that is parallel with the coronary band (where the hoof and the fur meet).  From the side, the hoof will be a rhomboid shape when you are all finished.  Slowly snip the side walls of the hoof down until you start to see a creamy pink color.  This is the healthy new hoof.  If you alternate back and forth between the outer wall and the inner wall, snipping toward the tip (away from the heel), you will end up with a nice clean tip as well.  Be careful not to cut too deep, as the hoof will bleed.

Trimming a hoof, before and after.
 You can see really nicely in the picture the before and after of hoof trimming.  A. The heel needs to be flattened.  B.  The hoof wall has grown so long that it has folded over onto the sole.  C.  The hoof wall is trimmed flat and D.  The sole and the hoof wall create a uniform platform of healthy pink padding.

So, J and I needed to do this on 16 goats.  Some were easy to catch, some were not.  We had a few who would always walk back to the headstall with us, regardless of whether or not they had been caught (they liked the scratches while we trimmed).  We had a couple who threw tamtrums - kicking their feet or pushing forward and back in the headstall.  We even had one throw himself on the ground...looked like a 300 pound toddler with horns.

Many of their hooves were really bad.  We did our best to trim back as far as possible, but a few of them had been allowed to curve so much that we'll have to come back and continue to correct slowly.  We only needed the nippers on a couple of the boers...their hooves were so long and hard the trimmers wouldn't cut through the hoof wall.

Asha - our new Alpine goat.
The last goat we trimmed was our new gal.  Of course, I cut too deep and she bled all over me.  I felt horrible.  We had trimmed everyone else with barely a scrape and I trim our new goat and gouge her sole.  We put stiptic powder on it and the bleeding eventually stopped.  I will watch it for any signs of infection.  Part of the trick was that the Alpine hooves are much narrower than the boer (the type I am used to).  You have to be extremely careful to stay shallow when trimming the hoof wall or you will catch the sole.

After 5 straight hours of trimming hooves, we loaded Asha (the new goat) into the back of the Expedition and drove home.  I took the owner's advice and downed a few Advil.  I think I'll feel the workout in the morning.  It was certainly a great way to get very comfortable with trimming hooves.  Kind of a trial by fire, if you will.

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