Hoof Care for Livestock

Hoof care is an essential part of maintaining healthy livestock including cattle, sheep, goats and horses. Livestock can weigh over 1000 lbs, all supported by four relatively small hooves. Problems with hooves can be very painful for your animals and can ultimately decrease their production and performance.

By using good hoof management practices, hoof problems can be greatly reduced and this can ultimately lower treatment expenses for problems that could arise down the road.  

Difference Between 'Hoof' and 'Foot'

A foot refers to the hoof and all its internal structures, including bones and sensitive structures. The hoof is the hard outside covering of the foot.  

Difference Between Livestock and Horse Hooves

Horse hooves are one single solid structure while cattle, sheep, goats and pigs have a hoof that contains two digits (referred to as cloven-footed). Each variety of livestock requires a different frequency and type of hoof care management.

Maintaining Healthy Hooves in Cattle, Sheep and Goats

Trimming

The most important practice in caring for the hooves of any species is regular trimming of the hoof in order to keep the weight bearing surfaces of the hoof balanced and proportional. Trimming schedules will depend on a variety of factors. For example, animals kept on hard cement will require more frequent trimming than animals on pasture. Standing on cement can be very uncomfortable for an extended period of time, and this is especially so for an animal with a misshapen foot. It is generally recommended that dairy cows, sheep and goats have their hooves checked and trimmed twice a year.

Nutrition

Nutrition plays a key role in the overall hoof health of an animal. By ensuring animals are receiving proper nutrients such as zinc and biotin, animals are better equipped to produce good quality hoof horn and therefore will have stronger feet. 

Maintaining Clean Quarters

Keeping a clean barn will assist in preventing many infections affecting the hooves of livestock including foot rot and heel warts. 

Healthy hooves are key to the overall heath and productivity of an animal. Hooves kept in good condition reduce the expense of treating lame animals, in addition to contributing to their overall health and well-being.

For more information on hoof care please visit the following links:

Hoof Anatomy, Care and Management in Livestock (Perdue University)
Principles of effective hoof care (Alberta Horse Industry)
Looking for a local Farrier?  The American Farrier Association