How to Trim Goat Hooves for Overall Health
Goat hoof anatomy and avoiding goat hoof rot
Reading Time: 5 minutes
Trimming goat hooves is essential to good goat health. When keeping goats, learn how to trim goat hooves for regular maintenance and to promote a healthy life for your goat. Overgrown hooves can hide diseased tissue, and lead to a slow painful decline in the goat’s overall condition.
When you are looking at the foot from the top view, you see two separate toes, or cloves, of the hoof. Each clove acts as an independent hoof! Both halves of the full goat hoof have the same parts. Hopefully, you also see clean hard hoof material. Picking up the hoof allows us a view of the interesting underside of the hoof. A healthy, well-trimmed hoof clearly shows the various layers of the hoof.
Goat Hoof Anatomy
The hard, outer layer is made of a keratin material, much like our fingernails, but tougher and thicker. Adhering to the outer hoof is a rim of lighter colored growth material. This is called the hoof wall and is the underside of the outer hoof. Growth of the hoof occurs here, resulting in a ragged hoof, flaps of overgrown hoof tissue, and lengthening toes.
The central portion is the sole or frog of the hoof. In a healthy hoof, this will need little to no attention. I brush off any mud that has adhered to it, mainly so I can make sure there are no abrasions or inflammation present. This is softer tissue and can suffer bruising, cuts, rotting, or fungal infections. Other parts of the hoof are referred to as the toe, heel, bulb, and coronet, which is the band of hoof at the end of the ankle.
There should not be any separation between the hoof wall and the frog or sole portion of the hoof. Dirt, mud, feces, and anything imaginable can get caught in between the two cloves of the hoof. Hair will also grow between the two cloves. An oil gland is located between the two halves, at the end of the ankle, beginning of the hoof. This oil gland can get clogged, so it is good to check for it occasionally.
Why Trimming Goat Hooves is Necessary
The outer hoof wall grows continuously, all year long. As the hard shell grows it folds under the hoof, and the toes grow long and pointy. Eventually, if not trimmed, the hoof shape will change, and the tips will curl up or to the side. The flaps under the hoof provide a hiding place for moisture, mud, manure, bacteria, small pebbles, and bits of food. All of this can lead to diseased hooves. The goat feels great discomfort and stops moving around as often as normal. The limited foraging intake begins to take a toll on the animal’s condition.
In addition to those possibilities, a longer reaching consequence is occurring. As the goat hoof continues to grow, it puts unusual pressure on the joints, particularly the joints in the pastern area of the lower leg, and the knee. When your goat is lame, it is reluctant to get up for food. It will limit foraging. The goat can become unhealthy and ill quickly.
As the hoof wall grows, the flaps fold under the hoof. Trimming goat hooves regularly prevents excess growth from folding under the hoof. Proper and timely trimming for goat hooves stops the mud, manure, bacteria, stone, and food from harboring in the hoof. The goat will feel less discomfort and will continue with normal activity. The goat continues to forage and move.
How Often Should You Trim Goat Hooves
Each goat and goat species has different rates of hoof growth. Checking the hooves every two to four weeks and trimming as needed is a good rule of thumb. Trimming goat hooves on a regular schedule is part of animal husbandry and herd management. Find the routine that works for you. Be sure to check in between hoof trimmings if you notice lameness or reluctance to walk around.
How to Trim Goat Hooves on an Unruly Goat
Many goats elude hoof trimming by running away or making your life miserable while you attempt to trim the hooves. A few animal handling tactics might help you succeed and keep the stress to a minimum.
Take a small section of wire fencing and calmly move the goat into a corner. Have someone hold the fence while you put the halter on the goat. At this point, you can either work on the hooves right there in the confined space or move the goat to the stand. In either scenario, you will need to pin the unruly goat against a wall to work on him. Sometimes trimming goat hooves is a full-contact sport!
The back legs are normally a bit tricky. Understand that this is because a goat is a prey animal. The kicking and pulling their foot away are reflex reactions to the leg being grabbed and held. Once you get the hang of trimming, you will be able to work quickly and complete the trim without much drama. Also, a small amount of sweet grain or tasty forage might distract the goat from the task being done.
Tools for Trimming Goat Hooves
- Goat hoof trimmers.
- Goat stand. This is not mandatory, but it will make the job easier on your back.
- Goat halter for moving the goat to the stand.
- Hoof pick and brush.
- Rag or old towel for wiping mud off the hoof.
- Purchased products — Corn starch for blood stop, zinc, or copper oxide foot solution for foot rot.
Hoof Issues to Look for While Trimming Goat Hooves
- Hoof scald
- Contagious goat hoof rot (More on how to treat goat hoof rot in this article)
- Cracks and separation in the hoof (This story has great pictures of goat hoof problems.)
- Unusual odor
How Trimming Goat Hooves Improves Goat Health
Frequent trims keep goats comfortable as they move around doing goat things. Performing frequent trims allows you to also check eyes, teeth, joints, and coat condition. Trimming goat hooves is an essential part of goat keeping. Start your goats on a path of overall good health with frequent inspections and trims.
Originally published in the September/October 2020 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.