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Hoof Trimming Techniques That Work

By Miriah Reynolds

Hooves to a goat are just like a foundation to a house—very important. If the foundation is rotted and full of termites, the rest of the house is not very sturdy or secure. If a goat’s hooves are not kept properly trimmed, that goat does not have a chance to lead a happy, healthy life. Strong feet are essential to the performance of all goats.

I live in Rhode Island on a small hobby farm. I have a dairy goat herd consisting of about 10 does, a silly buck named Stanley, and a donkey named Petunia. Some of my does are trained to pull carts. When they do not have good, solid feet they can’t pull their best. But I am forever putting off trimming their hooves because, well, it just takes so much time and I don’t like to do it.

Behind our paddock is a large pond loaded with all different types of aquatic animals. The frogs may enjoy the murky grossness, but my goats and I sure don’t. When spring comes and the clouds open up, I find my goats sinking to their cannon bones in mud, and of course I feel really bad for them. This year, I decided if I wanted my goats to be happy and healthy, I just need to come up with a better plan to keep their hooves cared for properly. I used to try to trim all my goats’ hooves in one day, and it was extremely frustrating and very tiring. Since it was not fun for the goats or I to see the rotted feet, I usually did not trim hooves until just before a show. Waiting this long caused the hoof rot to become more severe and the only cure was bright green Koppertox. Using this medicine definitely cured the rot, but it also stained my white Saanens green for the show.

When I got a new pair of hoof trimmers and a rasp for Christmas, I put a new plan of action to work for my own—and my goats’—benefit. Rather than wait until I had to trim hooves, I decided to trim one goat’s hooves every day. This way it would only take a few minutes, and when showtime rolled around, all would be ready. No need for that green stuff, I hope.

My new tools work really well and can be purchased at almost any goat tack store. The key to wanting to use the tools everyday is to keep them sharp and in great working condition. I decided that since my does were in the milk stands twice a day already for milking, once a week I would just give each a quick pedicure while she was already there.

Miriah's 12-yearold, Recorded Grade doe, Ariel.
Miriah’s 12-yearold, Recorded Grade doe, Ariel.

I started with Ariel, my 12-year-old goat, on a Monday morning. Then I continued every day after with a different goat. I was amazed at how easy it was and how, once I got into the habit, I didn’t even mind it so much. I’ve listed the steps that I take when trimming my goats’ hooves. It does not take long at all, but the results of doing this on a regular basis are amazing!

After I am finished with the hoof trimmers and the rasp on all four feet, I clean and oil the trimmer blades. Then I put them away in their special spot by the back door. This way I always know where they are.

I have learned that when a hoof has lots of small nooks and crannies for dirt to sink into, the bacteria starts rotting away the hoof. I learned to seal the hooves after trimming to keep out the bad stuff.

On the first hot day of the year I seal hooves with Tuff Stuff. Sealing the hoof helps to keep out unwanted materials from seeping into the hoof wall. Tuff Stuff is a really thick, strong hoof polish. It strengthens the hoof while it is drying, and keeps it hard for a long time. However, I don’t believe it should be used before a show, or as a hoof polish. I have also learned to be sure that the hoof is completely dry before applying it, otherwise it will turn white and flaky.

Trimming four hooves of a goat, one goat per day, only adds about eight minutes to chore time, and it makes a ton of difference to the health of the goat! I hope my hoof trimming techniques will keep my goats happy for a long, long time. After all, healthy hooves equal one happy goat, and my goat, Ariel, is proof of that!

1. I take a large hard bristled brush, and sweep off all the mud. Then if it is a warmer day I will soak one hoof at a time in water to get all of the missed gunk off. A large hard bristle brush
A large hard bristle brush
2. After the hoof has been cleaned, I take the hoof trimmers and trimaround the hoof sides, and trim the toe even. I have to be careful not to cut too far into the hoof. I remind myself that since I am doing this weekly, I do not have to trim too far on any given day. Nevertheless, I recommend always keeping blood stop powder nearby just in case the trimmer slips or I accidentally cut too far. Good quality hoof trimmers
Good quality hoof trimmers
3. Being super careful, lay the hoof trimmers flat over the hoof. Steadily cut down the heel, making sure that the heel is level with the rest of the hoof floor. It is fine if the heel is a bit taller than the hoof floor.   
4. Take a rasp or a hoof knife and level the hoof. I recommend wearing work gloves as the rasps and knives can be very sharp and slip easily. Sharp rasp
Sharp rasp

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