How to trim goat hooves is one of those useful things to know when you’re raising goats on a homestead or farm. Not only does it save you lots of money, but you’re also avoiding things like hoof rot, infections, or overgrown hooves.
To trim goat hooves, you must learn what a well-trimmed goat hoof looks like, secure your trimming area, then trim down the overgrown walls of the hoof. After that, you can trim the toes and file down the edges to keep the walls even with your goat’s sole.
In this guide, we’ll show you exactly how to trim a goat hoof step-by-step so you can learn to do a hoof trim yourself. We’ll also talk about why it’s so important to keep your goat’s hooves trimmed and talk about what happens if you don’t keep up with those hooves!
Ready? Then, let’s get right into it!
- Do You Have to Trim a Goat's Hooves?
- How Do You Fix Overgrown Goat Hooves?
- How Often Do You Trim Goat Hooves?
- What You’ll Need to Trim Goat Hooves
- Step 1: Learn What A Trimmed Hoof Should Look Like
- Step 2: Go Get Your Goat
- Step 3: Secure Your Goat and Working Area
- Step 4: Pick Up and Assess the Hoof
- Step 5: Trim the Overgrown Walls
- Step 6: Scrape Walls and Sole
- Step 7: Trim the Toes
- Step 8: The Final Pedicure
- The Finished Hoof
Do You Have to Trim a Goat’s Hooves?
Cloven hooves are associated with the devil. We think that’s because they can be devilishly hard to care for, as goat hooves are prone to foot rot and other infections. So, caring for your goats’ hooves should be a top priority.
You have to trim goat hooves to prevent hoof infections and other hoof-related issues. While many people turn to veterinarians and farriers when it comes to hoof trimming, doing it yourself is simple enough and makes it even easier to keep your goats’ hooves healthy.
Goats rarely roll over and hold their hooves up in the air so you can check them over, making the process of goat hoof trimming considerably more challenging than giving your best friend a manicure.
However, the trouble is, without regular hoof trimming, you could end up with a herd of lame goats. If hoof rot doesn’t get them, overgrown or “Turkish-slipper-type hooves” will.
So, it’s best to look at hoof trimming day as a “grin and bare it” situation if you want your goats to stay happy, healthy, and sound of foot.
How Do You Fix Overgrown Goat Hooves?
To fix overgrown goat hooves, you’ll need to trim back the hoof wall with clippers. You may also want to use a file to even out the hoof wall with the sole of the foot after clipping away the excess hoof.
When it comes to how to trim a goat’s hooves, there’s no single answer. I trim a goat’s hooves using a huge pair of clippers designed for trimming horses’ hooves. It may be a bit rough and ready, but it gets the job done.
- Shears come in white ivory or bright orange color handles
- Excellent for trimming goat and sheep hooves
- Gently rounded tips make cleaning manure from hooves safer for the animal
- Lightweight multi-purpose shears are great for all your pruning needs
- Replacement parts available
While I appreciate that hoof shears might be a lot sharper than my age-old clippers, I’ve never drawn blood, which suggests maybe the clipper approach is better for those of us with less than steady hands!
How Often Do You Trim Goat Hooves?
Expert advice on how often your goats should have their hooves trimmed varies enormously. One says four weeks, another every six to 10 weeks, and yet another states that you should trim twice a year – so who should you believe?
How often you should trim goat hooves depends on both the breed of goat and its habitat. Goats with fast-growing hooves kept on grassland, for instance, will inevitably need foot trimming more often than those on rocky ground.
Alpine, Saanen, and Toggenburg goats are all primarily mountain dwellers and, without that hard, rocky ground underfoot, need trimming care more frequently than Dwarf goats, whose hooves sustain better on softer grasslands.
In my experience, even the notoriously tough Boer goat needs a cut every six to eight weeks and certainly more often than twice a year.
The Boer/Dwarf crosses on the farm, on the other hand, appear to be much easier and need minimal maintenance – many have gone a year with frequent checks, but no subsequent pedicure is required.
What You’ll Need to Trim Goat Hooves
Using clippers isn’t a good way to skin a cat, nor is it the only way to trim goat feet. You could invest in a pair of professional goat hoof trimmers or use secateurs or pruning shears for the job. Some even suggest using a handheld electric angle grinder!
While an angle grinder is probably overkill, there are some nifty-looking hoof trimmers out there that I’ve got my eye on. I’m currently saving up for these beauties… but in the meantime, and for this guide on foot care, I’m sticking with my hefty horse hoof clippers.
How to Trim Goat Hooves: A Step-by-step Tutorial
The goat I’m using for this tutorial is a two-year-old Boer doe called Emily. Earlier this year, she got a thorn stuck between her toes. Unable to remove it, I ended up doing battle with an abscess for weeks.
Even now, six months on, you can see that the outer toe now protrudes more than it used to, so keeping it shortly trimmed is the only way to prevent lameness.
The final hoof shape is not as neat and tidy as should be, but it should give you an indication of how to trim both a regular foot and a slightly deformed foot to boot.
Step 1: Learn What A Trimmed Hoof Should Look Like
It’s important to familiarize yourself with the anatomy of a goat hoof before you start. This will help you visualize the end result and minimize the potential for injury.
The illustration below will give you a basic understanding of the anatomy of the hoof, courtesy of Tom Milner from Out Here magazine.
Step 2: Go Get Your Goat
You can’t catch any fish with no bait, and you can’t clip any hooves without no goat, so the first step is to catch your goat. This may take a minute or all day, depending on your goat and your livestock handling routine.
I prefer to do my animals in the morning while they’re still in their overnight pen on the farm and still a little snoozy in the morning sun. It’s also advisable to try trimming your goats’ feet after you’ve had a bit of rain, as this will make them softer and easier to work with.
Step 3: Secure Your Goat and Working Area
Expert information recommends trimming your goats’ hooves in a “squeeze chute… preferably one that is ramped off the ground to the level of the workers’ arms.” But not many of us actually have one of these.
Alternatively, you use your knees to lower yourself to the level of the foot. Easier for short folk like myself than taller people, admittedly.
If you have a handling area for goats on your homestead, chances are you also have somewhere to tether your animals. Alternatively, if you live on the edge like me and haven’t got to that level of sophistication, rope in the nearest pair of available hands to help hold the goat for you.
As my goats are trimmed every couple of months, they’re generally quite accommodating. Someone holding them by the horns is usually helpful enough, although my old lady, Dolly, does like to throw herself on the floor like some kind of Hollywood diva but then lies then contentedly while I trim away.
As you can see from the accompanying images, I adopt a wide range of yoga poses during a goat hoof trimming session! With a particularly fidgety goat, I find it’s easier to do the hind feet while straddling the goat and using my legs to keep it steady.
Step 4: Pick Up and Assess the Hoof
Grasping the goat’s leg below the knee, put pressure on the lower leg, moving it back and up at the same time. Once you’ve got a clear view of the hoof, take the time to use a hoof pick or brush to clean off any surface dirt.
The pick, or a hoof knife, can also be used to peel back overgrown walls to see what’s happening underneath and to make the wall easier to trim.
Step 5: Trim the Overgrown Walls
The wall part of the hoof is pliable and, when it grows too long, it will fold over, covering the sole (bottom of the hoof). The first step in the trimming process is removing these walls so you can get a better picture of the hoof beneath and what the soles look like.
Step 6: Scrape Walls and Sole
Using a hoof knife, you can scrape off the remnants of the overgrown wall and get to removing any old sole bits. Look for a clean, white, and slightly pinkish sole but don’t go deeper than that as it could cause bleeding.
Step 7: Trim the Toes
Even the healthiest of hooves sometimes have excess toes. Mountain-dwellers like the Boer goat, Alpine, and Saanen are particularly prone to this.
Using your clippers, take off the longest pieces or, if the excess is minimal, simply try to cut it off with your hoof knife.
Step 8: The Final Pedicure
Once you’re happy that the worst of the excess has been removed from the walls, sole, and toes, use a file to complete the job.
This is the final step in your livestock trimming process, and you should be aiming for a hoof where the sole is parallel to the coronary band (see diagram below, illustration by Tom Milner).
The Finished Hoof
As my pedicure model is a goat with a previous injury to her hoof, the finished hoof isn’t perhaps as attractive as it ought to be.
The outer toe is permanently at a strange angle as if trying to distance itself from the inner toe.
As you can see from the inner toe in the image below, the wall is now straight and runs parallel to the coronary band, and the goat will be walking “upright on flat-bottomed feet,” not on her pasterns, heel, or walls.
How To Trim Goat Hooves FAQs
Still have questions about trimming your goats’ hooves at home? Well, we just might have the answers!
You can trim goat hooves yourself at home with a pair of clippers, pruning shears, or a hoof knife. Trimming goat hooves is not much trickier than trimming a dog’s toenails.
If you don’t trim a goat’s hooves, they may become infected, which often causes lameness in goats. Goat hooves grow from the wall up, often curving around the sle and creating infection-causing pockets of mud, bacteria, and fungi.
If you cut your goat’s hoof too deep, you can use a quick-stop powder to stop the bleeding or let go of the hoof, allowing the pressure your goat puts on it to help the bleeding stop. You may wish to treat the cut with an antiseptic spray to prevent infection.
Hoof trimming does not hurt goats. Hooves are just like claws or fingernails, and they don’t have any nerve endings in them. However, the sole of your goat’s foot does have nerve endings, so avoid cutting too deep into the hoof.
If you find an infection when cutting your goat’s hooves, consider calling your local veterinarian. If the infection is very small and you are prepared to monitor it for any worsening, treat the site with an antiseptic hoof medicine and keep an eye on it.
Will You Trim Your Goat’s Hooves at Home?
I hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial and now feel confident that you know how to trim a goat’s hooves at home, on the farm, or on your homestead, with a simple pair of clippers.
Although I realize this may not be the best approach, I wanted to emphasize the fact that you don’t have to have all the recommended equipment to keep your goats’ hooves healthy and provide hoof care. As they say over here in South Africa: ‘n boer maak ’n plan’ – in other words, “the farmer makes a plan.” You can also read that as – MacGyver is our hero!
Have you had experience trimming a goat’s hooves? Why not share your thoughts, advice, and information in the comments below? If you’ve enjoyed this little introduction to how to trim a goat’s hooves with clippers, be a sport and share it on social media.