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, you’re also avoiding things like hoof rot, infections, or overgrown hooves. We’ll show you exactly how to trim a goat hoof so you can learn to do a hoof trim yourself.
Do You Have to Trim a Goats Hooves?
Cloven hooves are associated with the devil and can be devilishly hard to care for. A goat hoof is prone to footrot and other infections.
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.
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.
How Do You Fix Overgrown Goat Hooves?
When it comes to how to trim a goats’ hooves, there’s no single answer. I trim a goats’ 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.
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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, twice a year – so who should you believe? To a degree, it depends on both the breed of goat and its habitat.
Goats 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 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: Before You Start
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.
Read more: Hoof Health – TractorSupply
Step 2: Go Get Your Goat
You can’t catch no fish with no bait and you can’t clip no 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”. Hmmm.
Alternatively, you use your knees to lower yourself to the level of the foot. Easier for short folk like myself than 6ft giants, 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 they grow too long, they will fold over, covering the sole (bottom of the hoof). The first step in the trimming process is removing these so you can get a better picture of the hoof beneath and what the hooves 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. 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 toe. 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.
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 goats’ hooves at home, on 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 goats’ 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 goats’ hooves with clippers, be a sport and share it on social media.
Last update on 2020-12-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API