The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

How to trim goat hooves

Goat in stanchion

Trimmed goat hoofWhen we first brought home our caprine herd fourteen months ago, trimming hooves sounded like a difficult hurdle I might not be able to surpass. Books make the procedure seem so complicated...but trimming my own fingernails would probably sound just as scary if I read a description having never seen the art done.

The hardest part turned out to be training our herd to be willing to separate from each other and then eat happily in the stanchion while I played with their legs. With that infrastructure in place, hoof trimming became simple, especially if I chose a damp day when their nails were soft.

Artemesia especially is a breeze because she barely eats any concentrates, so her hooves grow pretty slowly. Plus, she came to me at four months of age with perfect feet, so my monthly trimming sessions ever since have consisted of just keeping them the way they were. If I hadn't let our first freshener put her foot down in some manure between trimming and taking the photo to the right, in fact, you'd think her hooves were pretty pristine.

Trimming goat hooves

Abigail is a bit more complicated because her feet were never perfect. As a milker, she gets more concentrates, and that means her hooves grow faster and manure tends to get packed up inside the excess growth. So I spend a couple of extra seconds excavating any gunk, and I also tend to have to trim a bit of growth off the soft pad at the heel (which seldom needs cutting on Artemesia's feet).

Slightly more worrisome, Abigail's hooves tend to get jaggedy, almost like a person who bites her fingernails. There doesn't seem to be much I can do about this other than trim the long parts and let the jaggedy parts grow back. Still, I suspect these imperfect feet may be why Abigail won't step in even the slightest hint of water while Artemesia doesn't seem to mind foot dunkings.

All told, it probably took me longer to write this post than to trim both of our girls' feet. Hoof care is a fun activity for a snowy day, when I don't want to spend too much time outside but do want to enjoy my daily dose of caprine charm. And since the girls get extra alfalfa pellets at trimming time, they also look forward to this part of their month.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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