Article Index "Hoof Trimming in Goats" Article Index

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By: Jackie Nix
Agricultural Extension Agent
About the Author

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The trimming of hooves of goats is a simple task that can be easily learned,however, the hard part comes in committing oneself to follow through in a timely manner. Many foot and leg problems in goats are either caused by a lack of trimming or improper trimming techniques. The amount of time between trimmings depends on many factors, such as type of terrain, the goat's age, level of activity, nutritional level and even breed. Goats raised in relative confinement and on small acreages may also require more frequent trimmings than goats raised in vast pastures. Generally, foot trimming should be done on an as needed basis. Once you become familiar with how the hoof is supposed to look, this will become obvious to you. A properly trimmed hoof should look like that of a newborn kid.

The tools for hoof trimming include: gloves, a set of hoof shears and a hoof knife, both with sharp edges. Optional items include: a rasp, some iodine, turpentine, copper sulfate, and formalin.

It is always easier to trim feet after the goats have been outside in wet grass, as the moisture is taken in by the hoof walls, making them softer and easier to trim. There are also commercial preparations that may be used to harden or soften the hoof if one feels that this is necessary.

There are several ways of holding or restraining a goat in order to care for hooves. The best method is whatever works well for your particular situation. One method is to place the goat on a milking stand. However, most meat and mohair goat producers do not have access to a milking stand nor would their stock stand quietly when placed on such a stand. Therefore, a more practical method might be to merely tie the goat to a post or fence with a halter or have someone hold the goat while the feet are being trimmed. Hold the goat's feet in the same fashion as a farrier works on a horse. Another method that can be used involves placing the goat between one's legs in the same position used for shearing; that is, the animal is in an upright sitting position. This method has the advantage that if the trimmer must work alone without the aid of a milkstand, he/she still can restrain goats better than when they are tied somewhere but do not like to stand still. This method works best with angora and mohair type goats, since they are shorn in this position, however; dairy and meat goats unused to this position may fight quite a bit.

The first step in trimming is to clean off the foot, so that it is free of dirt, stones, rot and manure. Besides being easier to see and more pleasant to handle, a clean foot will not dull a knife's edge as fast as a dirty foot. The next step is to remove any rim or excess growth from the walls of the foot. The wall may have grown and folded back under the foot. In this case some of the overlapped toe will have to be cut back so that the rim of the wall can be removed properly. The trimming of the wall and toe should be done with the shears, while the heel and sole can best be cut with a hoof knife. When using a hoof knife, always cut away from the goat and yourself. The sole should be trimmed down in thin slices until the heel, sole and wall form a flat surface upon which the goat should stand at a correct angle of about 45o. Stop trimmingas soon as the sole begins to appear a pinkish color. Any further trimming goes into the ''quick'' and the foot will begin to bleed. In that case, a disinfectant such as iodine should be used. Turpentine will harden the sole and may also be helpful. In many cases, the weight of the goat itself will put pressure on the cut and stop the bleeding.

If the goat's feet have been neglected for some time, and the toes are very long it is usually not practical to try to bring them back to normal in one trimming. It is generally better to trim the feet a little, then gradually bring them back to proper shape, size and angle with frequent trimmings. A general rule to keep in mind about trimming goat's feet is that the hoof's hairline should be almost parallel to the ground and the more often trimming is done the less time and energy per trimming it takes, and the more well behaved the goats will be during the trimming. Also, there is a smaller chance of the goat developing foot problems such as hoof rot if the owner is working with the goat's feet regularly and frequently.

One of the most common problems is the development of foot rot. This disease is caused by a mixed infection of two bacteria, Fusobacterium necrophorum andBacteroides nodosus, which are brought into an area by way of contaminatedfeet. Wet soils and filth increase the possibility of disease outbreaks. Also, injuries to the feet enhance the transmission of foot rot, although it usually does not occur when the soil temperature is less than 40 degrees F (4.5 degrees C). Generally, thisdisease starts as an inflammation between the toes of the foot, later spreading under the horn. As it continues, it causes a separation between horn and skin, causing varying degrees of pain and lameness.

The foot rot bacteria require an anaerobic (without oxygen) environment to survive. Therefore, in order to correct this problem, the hoof must be trimmed back to the point of separation so that the area will be exposed to the air. This also rids the hoof of a potential "pocket" in which dirt and manure could contribute to an anaerobic environment. The foot is then treated with anantibiotic spray, or soaked in a 10% formalin, copper sulfate or zinc sulfate solution and kept off contaminated fields or muddy yards for at least two weeks to avoid reinfection. A walk­through foot bath filled with saturated copper sulfate or zinc sulfate solution will also aid in maintaining sound, healthy feet; provided the foot bath is kept free of contamination from manure, rain and run­off.

An added benefit to proper hoof trimming is that some foot and leg problems can be ''cured'' by corrective trimming. If the hindlegs are postlegged or too straight, leaving the toes a little long may help give the leg more angle. Vice­versa, a sickle­hocked leg will benefit from trimming the toes short to a greater than 450 angle. If the legs toe out, trimming the total inner claw shorterand lower on each foot will help. If hooves have spread claws, then cutting the inner walls more than the outer walls, is good corrective hoof trimming, provided it is done frequently and in short intervals.

In summary, a conscientious effort at a good foot care program will keep goats looking better, healthier and more productive.

About the author: Jackie Nix is an Agricultural Extension Agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. You may e-mail questions to her at . This and other goat related information can be found at her website at
The following sources are cited in the original document:
Missing name for redirect Feet and Legs. Extension Goat Handbook. Authors: G.F.W. Haenlein and R.Caccese
The Merck Veterinary Manual, 7th Ed.. Merck & Co., Inc. Rahway, NJ. 1991.
Goat Health Handbook. T.R. Thedford, DVM. Windrock International. Morrilton, AR. 1983.

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