Hoof Health

Hoof Care Tips

Hoof Care TipsIntroduction

The hoof is an extremely important structure in an animal’s body. Although an animal with hoof problems may be able to function, chances are that optimal animal production and performance will be reduced depending upon the severity of the problem.

A cow with painful feet is less likely to walk, and therefore, less likely to have the desire to get to a feed bunk, which will reduce weight gain or milk production compared to that of an animal able to consume its full ration of feed every day. Although some hoof problems are unavoidable, sound hoof management procedures can greatly reduce the incidence of hoof problems in all types of animals. A good hoof care program leads to lowered expenses in treatment of problems, as well as fewer losses due to decreased performance and productivity of the animal.

Although the structure of the hoof differs from species to species, the basic anatomy is very similar between species. In order to understand how to properly care for the hoof, it is important that an owner understand the basic structure and anatomy of the hoof. In this publication, a bovine foot will be used to illustrate the general anatomy of a typical hoof.


After the anatomy of the hoof is understood, it is much easier to comprehend how certain lameness occurs, how to prevent them, and how and why one should keep feet in good, working condition. As many veterinarians and livestock producers will note, a well-maintained routine of cleaning and trimming animals’ feet will lead to a far lower incidence of discomfort and lameness in the animals. Nutrition also plays a key role in hoof health and maintaining proper growth rate. By keeping an animal well fed with the proper nutrients such as zinc and biotin, it is much more likely that they will produce good-quality hoof horn and have stronger feet.

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Top 5 Ways To Improve Your Cattle Hoof Trimming Efficiency

Cattle hoof trimming is always stressful and it’s never an easy day’s work. It’s stressful on you, stressful on the hoof trimmer and stressful on the cows. But even the smallest changes can make the day a bit less overwhelming and will help the day go faster with less down-time. Reduce your stress on cattle hoof trimming day and increase your hoof trimmer’s efficiency with these great tips:

  1. Location
  • Ask your cattle hoof trimming professional where and how they prefer to work.
  • Consider indoors v. outdoors, access to power plugs and work space, including room to move freely and space for tools.
  • Take into consideration the lighting.
  • Be sure to have adequate ventilation.
  • Ensure cows will move in and out of the trimming area safely and that the traffic will flow smoothly.
  • Ask your cattle hoof trimming professional if the set up is working or if something needs to be changed.
  1. Cattle Sorting & Collection
  • Have your cows sorted ahead of time and a group waiting prior to cattle hoof trimming.
  • Having the cattle ready will get the trimmer in and out more quickly and reduces downtime.
  • Have a gate system set up (or a pen) so that there is a holding area for cows about to undergo cattle hoof trimming.
  • Keep things as normal as possible for the cows. Don’t have too big of a group where the animals are standing without food and water for hours on end.
  1. Assistance
  • Always have enough assistance so that the trimmer never has to step away from the trimming area.
  • Schedule enough staff to help sort, group and move cattle back and forth, so the cattle hoof trimming professional can get right to work.
  • Make sure that anyone involved in the process remains calm, yelling and other hostility is not acceptable.
  1. Safety
  • Keep your cattle hoof trimming expert and staff informed of cows that are unruly or get extra nervous when handled by humans.
  • These cows need to be identified either by having a caution list with cow numbers or by marking them.
  • If there is a bull present, there needs to be extra precautions taken to ensure the safety of everyone involved. Extra gates, staff and restraint will always be worth it.
  1. Flooring & Barn Designs
  • Flooring should always give traction for animals both before and after cattle hoof trimming.
  • Put down some kind of coarse material (such as lime or shavings) to help increase traction.
  • When planning a new barn or freestall, ask for your hoof trimmer’s input. Their simple tips might help you save time in the future.

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Lameness in CattleMajor Factors Affecting Lameness

Trimming Procedure

  • Identify animals which need attention.
  • Restrain the animal in a manner that causes the least distress, but that gives restricted forward, backward and lateral movement of the animal’s body.
  • First closely examine the hoof and visualize what excess tissue requires trimming, before starting to trim the hoof.
  • Start trimming by taking some of the excess growth off the front of the toes. The main principle is to ensure that toe length is in proportion to the size of the animal and of the hoof. Cut or trim in small “bites”.
  • Clean the sole with a hoof knife. A normal hoof that needs trimming has a slightly concave sole with a raised, horny rim around each toe, which causes the horny outer wall to bear most of the animal’s mass.
  • Start trimming the bottom of the hoof from the heel with hoof clippers, hoof chisel or hoof knife, and work at an incline towards the toe. The heel seldom requires trimming since it often is shallow and worn and can be soft and tender. By trimming more off the toe than the heel, the animal is forced to put more weight on the toe, which encourages it to stand in a natural way. When one trims the bottom of the hoof, one should also trim the rim on both sides of each toe, ensuring that the bottom of the hoof is smooth. This will help to distribute the animal’s mass over the entire bottom surface of each toe and prevents accumulation of stones and manure in the centre of the toe.
  • Should the tips of the toes come together after the top and bottom of the hoof has been trimmed, it will be necessary to trim the insides of the toe tips. Remove the curved portion of the tips to ensure that the toe tips are straight and that there is some space between them.
  • Should the edges and some of the sole be left rough after the clipping, they may be smoothed off with a rasp.
  • Should any abscesses be found, they must be opened and drained to release pus and pressure.     Suitable medicament, g. strong tincture of iodine, gentian violet or chloramphenicol spray, should be applied to the area, and if necessary systemic antibiotic injections can be given.
  • After care is important, especially when the animal’s hooves were very long or abnormal before trimming. In such cases, trimming these exposes sensitive tissue which is done, the animal often may limp for several days because of the change of angle of the foot.