Hoof Care Helps Prevent Hoof Rot in Goats and Other Ruminants
Goat hoof trimming is part of maintenance for keeping goats healthy. Regular goat hoof trimming will help prevent hoof rot. All ruminants are at risk for a bad case of foot rot. Wild goats and sheep normally roam in rocky areas that naturally wear down the hoof growth. Domestically raising goats, sheep, cattle, and horses require hoof trimming because all can contract a painful case of hoof rot from overgrown hooves. There are some ways to lessen the risk and maintain healthy hooves in your herd or flock. It is important to note that not all cases of limping and sore hooves are true foot rot. Foot scald, hoof abscess and blocked toe glands can lead to symptoms that mimic goat, cow, horse and sheep hoof rot. Many factors can play into lameness in a ruminant animal.
Goat hooves are keratin just like our fingernails. Trimming is the single most important task to help prevent lameness, soft hooves, smelly hooves, and hoof rot. Checking the animal’s feet regularly and frequently gives you the head start you need to care for a bad hoof before the condition spreads. When you decide to start raising goats, be prepared to learn how to do goat hoof trimming, too. There are specific goat hoof trimmers available through livestock supply businesses. Some people use a sharp pair of garden pruners. I started out using garden pruners but I do think that the actual hoof trimmers are easier to use for the job.
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How to Carry out Goat Hoof Trimming
When I trim goat hooves, I place the goat on a stand. If you don’t have a stand that you use for milking or goat care, you can easily construct one using cinder blocks and a few boards. A cautionary word on this, have an assistant that can ensure the goat does not hop off the stand while you are doing the goat hoof trimming! I use a metal milking stand. It has sides that help block the goat from taking a leap off of the stand. The headrest also has a chain that goes around the goat’s neck to further stabilize the animal in place. You can also fasten the goat lead rope to a wall hook such as a cross-tie set up. I have pinned the goat to the wall with my legs, holding it still while bending down to inspect and trim the hoof. This technique usually leads to a pretty severe backache for me, so I only use it for a quick inspection or quick trim.
Begin with the front hooves. This may make it easier to control the goat because they typically resist anything being done to the back hooves, sometimes quite excitedly. Stand so that you are facing the rear of the animal, bend over slightly and grasp the lower leg above the hoof. Bend the leg at the knee. Begin by scraping away any mud or bedding on the hoof bottom. Use an old rag if necessary, so that you can see what needs to be trimmed away. Using hoof trimming shears, begin to cut away the overgrown parts of the hoof. Do not cut anything in the center of the hoof as that is where the growth and live tissue is. The hoof wall is similar to our fingernails. It does not hurt the goat to have the extra growth trimmed away, despite the protest that they may exhibit. When you have finished reshaping and cleaning up the front hooves, move to the back. Be careful to not get kicked. The reaction to you grabbing the rear leg can be quite dramatic. If you have an assistant, try giving treats to distract the goat. Trim the goat hoof back into shape as you did on the front feet. After trimming each hoof, file away any rough spots or jagged edges that might be left.
A healthy trimmed goat hoof should have a square or wedge shape. There should not be any overgrowth folding under the hoof or any extra growth in the front from overgrowth. The extra overgrowth in the front will often curl up. As overgrowth continues, the goat’s leg will start to accommodate the growth and the animal will put unnecessary pressure on the leg joints while trying to walk. These problems all lead to lameness
What to do When you Notice a Problem on the Hoof
While performing goat hoof trimming, look for cracks, soft spots, tender areas, separation of the hoof outer wall from the inner wall and any foul odor. All of these issues need your immediate attention. The first thing I do is use a good antiseptic wound spray. There are options available on the market. We tend to grab the Vetericyn Antiseptic and Wound Spray. Often killing some of the germs will start the healing process. The hoof material needs to be dried out for healing to continue. When the overgrown hoof forms flaps under the hoof, moisture can become trapped, leading to a perfect environment for bacteria to breed. Trapping manure or food crumbs in these folds further encourages the growth of disease-causing bacteria. Keeping up with goat hoof trimming keeps this from happening, in most cases. Using an antiseptic, antibacterial wound spray may stop the growth of any bacteria that leads to serious hoof rot issues.
While you are examining the hoof, look at the leg, and especially the area right above the hoof, for signs of injury, wounds, and sores. Particularly if the weather has been wet, problems such as foot scald can occur, looking like raw irritated skin. While foot scald usually manifests between the two halves of the hoof, it can also occur at the top of the hoof if the animal has been standing in deep wet bedding or wet grassy areas while grazing. Treating with a good wound spray should help, along with moving the animal to drier ground.
How does Hoof Rot Happen?
Footrot in cattle, sheep, goats, and horses occurs when wet warm conditions persist. It is a bacterial condition and is highly contagious in the herd. The condition is hard to cure so it is important to take steps to prevent hoof rot in the first place. Good hoof trimming and inspection and care are instrumental in preventing foot rot in goats, sheep and various horse hoof problems in general.
The symptoms of foot rot in goats, sheep, cows, and horses are lameness, discharge from the hoof and bad odor. The hoof is often overgrown and ragged looking in appearance. Preventative measures include keeping the bedding dry and clean and regular hoof trimming. If you discover a case of hoof rot or foot rot, trim the hoof and then treat the infection. Zinc or copper sulfate is the prescribed solutions for foot rot in ruminants. Soaking the animal’s feet in the solution for two minutes at a time will help kill the bacteria. Use large containers for the hooves to stand in or purchase boots specifically made for treating hoof conditions.
There is no doubt that regular hoof trimming will promote good health in your ruminants. Keep the hoof trimmers and a bottle of antiseptic spray handy and keep to a schedule. Inspect the hooves frequently for issues. What suggestions do you have for regular trimming of goat, sheep and other ruminant hooves? What type of trimmers has worked the best for you?