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Hoof Trimming Isn’t Just For Show Cows

Every summer and fall, the finest dairy cattle in the world will proudly walk before judge, culminating at the World Dairy Expo. Their owners will have them meticulously washed and fitted to make them look their best and this preparation surely included having their feet trimmed before coming to the show. At one time when herds were smaller and cows didn’t work so hard, we only considered trimming the feet of show cows.

Today all cows need the finest hoof trim possible to keep them productive. Recent changes in dairy cattle environments and the push to make cows produce more milk has put cows under more stress than ever before. Dairy housing and milking facilities have more concrete flooring today, which wears the feet unevenly, or not at all and causes overgrowth. These conditions make a cow more susceptible to lameness.

Lameness affects the overall health of the cow and compromises feed intake, milk production and reproductive capacity, which robs a dairy operation’s profits. To keep cows healthy and productive it is necessary to manage hoof care as carefully as nutrition, milk quality and breeding.

The following hoof care recommendations are from the Hoof Trimmers Association, Inc., which is a national organization of professional hoof trimmers, veterinarians and dairy specialists working with hoof health on dairy operations.

Managing Hoof Health On Your Dairy Operation
The first step to keep cows’ feet healthy is to regularly perform maintenance trims on all cows and replacement heifers. A maintenance trim restores the hoof to its normal shape and correct balance. All cows need a maintenance trim twice a year, once during the early dry period and again midway through the lactation. Cows that have a history of problems may need re-balancing every two months. Remember that trimming cannot fix a poor foot and leg confirmation, but regular trimming can help a cow like that produce at her potential and keep her healthy.

Including heifers in a maintenance trimming program can prevent lameness. In certain housing environments, young heifers’ feet can drastically overgrow. To avoid permanent damage and increased susceptibility to lameness later on, you should trim their feet. Once a heifer’s feet suffer an insult, regardless of what age it happens, her feet will more easily damage after that.

It is also imperative to provide replacement heifers with a maintenance trim at least 30 days before calving. The stress of calving for the first time, moving into the milking herd environment and eating a different ration can cause lameness if feet are overgrown and out of balance.

Trimming Shouldn’t Make Cows Lame
Whether you hire a reputable hoof trimmer or do it yourself, it is necessary to use correct trimming and treatment procedures. A cow should never walk away from a maintenance trim limping and need time to heal, if the trimmer used proper procedures. Even if a trimmer uses therapeutic trimming procedures to treat insults, the cow should not limp because trimming will restore the correct claw balance and relieve the pressure from the insult. Search for a trimmer with training and experience and check references. If you choose to do the trimming yourself, consider participating in a thorough training program to ensure you apply the correct trimming procedures.

Preventing Lameness
The second step to managing hoof health is to prevent lameness from developing. To do this we must understand what causes lameness and realize that it does not develop overnight. Most lameness surfaces 60 to 100 days after the cause (s) affects the cow. Cows are most susceptible to insults during high stress periods like calving and peak lactation. If cows are exposed to causes of lameness during these times you will see the lameness develop two to three months later.

By trimming on a regular schedule, you can prevent the mechanical cause of lameness, but this alone will not entirely prevent lameness. To prevent the metabolic and microbial causes of lameness you can feed properly balanced rations, practice good hygiene and keep the cows’ stress to a minimum. Try to prevent overcrowding, watch socializing closely especially for fresh two-year-olds, and provide lots of clean, dry, soft bedding. Cows need to comfortably lie down for 8 to 14 hours a day and studies show that when they do, their blood flow to the udder increases. Make sure all cows have easy access to clean, fresh feed and water 24 hours a day.

Through regular maintenance trimming and preventing lameness, you can realistically keep lameness at less than one percent of the herd. Currently the national average is 16 percent. Managing hoof care can keep your cows producing at their potential and boost profits. Then your entire herd can walk like champions. If you would like more information about hoof trimming or to find a hoof trimmer in your area, visit the Hoof Trimmers Association, Inc. at www.hooftrimmers.org.


Hoof Trimmers Association, Inc. | PO Box 8575 Missoula, MT 59807 | Phone:406.543.1823 | Fx: 877.546.9331| Email
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