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Trimming hooves: this practice works for goats as well as sheep.

Regular trimming of goat and sheep hooves is important to keep your animals from becoming lame. If you live in an area of the country where the terrain is rugged and rocky, it may not be necessary to trim hooves. But if your animals are on a dirt pasture, especially if the ground tends to be moist, you need to trim their hooves about twice a year. Moisture trapped under the hoof can rot the foot. Trim more often if you notice the sides of the hoof growing down and curling under, such as in the pictures.

If you do have a wet marshy pasture, it's a good idea to get a load of rock or gravel to dump somewhere far enough away from a fence so the animals can get out of the bog but can't jump over the fence. If it's not possible to bring in a load of rock or gravel, and there is no place they can stand out of the bog, build a platform out of wood about two feet off the ground. Sheep are usually not handled as much as goats, so some people prefer to trim the hooves during shearing. In addition, the use of a milk stand isn't always available to sheep herders, and if the sheep are not trained to get on one, trimming hooves can be a challenge. Sheep, therefore, can be trimmed from the shearing position, but this may require assistance with one person holding the sheep while the other trims. In most cases trimming sheep hooves once a year is sufficient.

It's best to trim in the spring or fall when the hooves are soft. Very hard hooves are almost impossible to cut, even with a very sharp knife. As mentioned above, the use of a milk stand, one that you can get on both sides of, works the best for goats. If your stand can't be moved away from a wall, try setting up a board over something about the same height as the stand so you can squeeze between the wall and the goat, and he can move over and stand on your make-shift table.

Other tools include a three-pound coffee can full of grain to keep her occupied, and a good pair of leather gloves so that in case the trimmer slips you won't cut yourself with feces material on the knife where it can get into an open wound. Put the glove on the hand that is holding the hoof. I find it difficult to wear a glove on the hand holding the knife or trimmer. I also have a can of Blue Coat ready in case I do cut the goat and it needs to be disinfected. Hopefully you won't need to use it! Most importantly, you will need a sharp pocket knife, and/or a pair of trimmers specially designed to trim goat and sheep hooves.

Although I will be referring to a goat in my explanation, the actual trimming process is the same for sheep, except for the holding positions. Starting with a front foot, get a good grip at the ankle, and either set the bended knee on your knee or position yourself to pull the foot between your legs to get a good hold. The less the goat is able to pull the foot away, the better.

Although a pocket knife can be used to do the whole thing, I prefer to use the trimmers.

Using the trimmers, trim the outside of the hooves first. If you are using just a knife, you must be careful that you don't cut too deep or cut yourself when the goat tries to pull her foot away. For this reason, don't try to cut the hoof all in one swoop, but trim a little at a time. You may need to cut towards the goat's heel or away from it, depending on how tough or soft the hoof is. Trimming the inside hoof, between the toes, can be a challenge. You may need to use the knife if you can't get a good bite with the trimmers. The tip of the hoof can be cut back when you can see where the flesh part of the foot is. Next, just like when your foot gets a callus on the heal, so does a goat or sheep hoof. This can be trimmed off, but be careful not to cut too deep. Cut small slices off a little at a time. If you begin to see pink, stop! Refer to the pictures to see how the hoof should look when you are done. When you are finished with the front feet, move to the back. It's the same process, only holding the foot is slightly different. I straddle the foot, with my back to the goat and pull it up between my legs. The goat will try to pull away. Steady yourself while you hold the foot and let her give a few pulls before bracing hard against the power of her leg. They usually settle down after a few pulls. But be prepared at any time during the trimming process for the goat to suddenly try to yank her foot away from you.

The goat's hooves in the picture were in bad shape, so they don't look as good as they could with the first trimming. Regular trimming will help to shape the hoof to its natural, original shape. Once you are finished, watch to see if the goat acts tender footed. If she does, you probably went too deep. Next time don't trim as deep in the fleshy pad area. On occasion you will find a blood vessel in the callused heel. I'm not talking about deep into the hoof. This usually only happens if the hooves have never been trimmed, and they are seriously turned under. If you cut through this, it will bleed a little. Don't be too alarmed, but be cautious. Don't cut any further this time if it appears the hoof is going to bleed more if you trim more.

I have never accidentally cut the goat's hoof enough to cause it to keep bleeding after more than a minute or so. If you do, don't assume it will stop by itself, and don't just let the animal back into the pasture. The animal could bleed to death or get a serious infection. Keep some blood stopper on hand, and if it doesn't stop after a few minutes, call your vet and ask how to stop the bleeding and how to prevent infection.

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Title Annotation:The goat barn
Author:Longacre, Kate
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Jan 1, 2004
Previous Article:The inter-relationships of plants.
Next Article:Start your own meat goat herd.

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