Learn How and When to Trim Your Goats' Hooves
By Suzanne Gasparotto
Illustrations by Tom Milner
Know how you feel when your feet hurt? Well, it's no different for goats. Out-of-shape and overgrown hooves can lead to illness, and even death, in goats.
Goat metabolism is very rapid, so they must be able to stay on the move and browse. But overgrown and untended hooves tend to turn inward and curl over the sole of the hoof, providing an incubation site for the bacteria which cause diseases such as hoof rot, which occurs on the sole and the wall of the hoof, and hoof scald, which occurs between the hoof "toes."
Hoof disease and untended hooves make walking exceedingly painful and competing for food difficult. And goats don't live long when they're not constantly eating.
The best time to trim hooves is immediately after a rain or a heavy dew, because the hoof wall will be much softer and easier to cut. Keep both a hoof dressing and bleed control handy.
Begin by cleaning all dirt from the sole and between the toes with the point of your hoof trimmer. If the hoof wall is overgrown, carefully pry it open and cut it off - one small slice at a time. Don't get in a hurry and take big cuts, because that will cause the hoof to bleed.
Stop trimming when the sole appears pinkish and all hoof rot has been removed. Hoof rot is normally found near the tip of the toe and along the hoof walls; it seldom occurs at the heel.
Trim between the hooves where the heels meet, taking care, as the heel is softer than any other part of the hoof. If in doubt about what a goat's hoof should look like, examine a very young kid's hoof.
Tough-to-cut, overgrown, out-of-shape hooves may need to be worked on with a hand-held electric grinder - the kind with a 4-inch metal grinding wheel.
Use the grinder to flatten the soles and the heel. The goat should walk upright on flat-bottomed feet, not on his pasterns.
Stop grinding when the hoof feels hot. The goat will let you know by jerking its leg from your hand.
Finish by carefully trimming the dew claws one snip at a time. These are often very hard and crusty, and tend to come apart in chunks.
If slight bleeding occurs during the trimming, or you find hoof rot, generously apply a liquid bandage to the entire bottom of the hoof. Hold the hoof off the ground for about 90 seconds to allow the liquid to dry.
Re-apply daily as needed. If serious (pulsing) bleeding occurs, apply a blood-control remedy and then a hoof dressing.