Remember the last time your feet hurt so badly you didn’t want to walk? Whether it was from a pair of ill-fitting shoes, overgrown nails, an infection or injury, the pain likely kept you off your feet. Goats, like people need routine foot care to stay healthy.
In Onondaga, Michigan, Mike Metzger operates HK-New Era Dairy, an 80 to 100 goat-milking operation. He also works as a small ruminant educator at the Michigan State University Jackson County Extension Office.
Usually, goats only need their hooves trimmed a few times a year, but he cautions that every animal is different. Some goats may need more frequent attention than others. When the outer shell begins to curl and weaken, it’s time for a trim, according to Metzger.
“It can be daunting to pick up a goat hoof and trim it. But after watching someone else or having someone teach you, it’s a relatively simple process,” he said. “If you find the right YouTube videos, those can be helpful.”
A Place to Work
You don’t need a fancy work area for trimming goat hooves, but you do need a way to hold them still. Metzger says he typically checks and trims hooves during milking time. Outfitting your goat with a halter and tying it or having a helper hold the animal are budget-friendly options.
Using a stand can make the task less onerous.
“You don’t have to have a stand, but there’s a lot less bending if they are up on the stand,” he said.
The Right Tools
Hoof trimmers look like garden pruning shears. However, they are specially made for smoothly snipping through the hoof wall.
Lift the hoof by having the goat bend at the knee. Start by removing any dirt and debris from the goat’s sole and between the toes. You can use the point on the end of the hoof trimmer to clean the area.
The goal is to trim the hoof walls so they are level with the sole. Metzger encourages people to start with small with conservative cuts to take a little bit hoof off at a time. You can always remove more hoof, but you can’t add it back if you’ve cut too much.
When you start to see pink, quit trimming, Metzger said. When cut too deeply, it can bleed. It’s always best to trim a little at a time. If bleeding occurs, use a liquid hoof dressing dip to stop the flow of blood and help limit the entry of bacteria.
Reapply as needed until the hoof is healed.
“When you’re done, you want the length of toe to be the same length as the heel,” he explained. “Since goats have a split hoof with two toes, you want the outside hard shell a little longer than the inside so they are walking on the outside part of their hoof.”
Keeping goat hooves at a proper length is a project you can do yourself when sticking to a regular schedule. In situations where a hoof has grown excessively long, it is best to call in a professional until the length is back under control.
Watch for Problems
Overgrown hooves curl inward and trap dirt that can provide the perfect environment for bacteria-causing diseases. Wet ground can encourage hoof rot, which is found on the hoof soles and walls.
Warts or “hoof” scald can develop in between the goat’s toes.
Maintaining goat hooves is important for animal comfort and health. When hoof disease and overgrown feet make it painful to walk, goats will not walk to eat, and they can’t survive long if they are not continually eating.
“Keep an eye on your goat’s hooves and keep them trimmed,” he said.