Are you interested in learning about hoof care for goats – and how to trim hooves? This was something I never knew much about myself – until I found that my own goats were suffering from overgrown, damaged hooves.
When that time came, I scrambled to the web to do my own research on hoof care for goats. I was fortunate to catch the issue when I did – and to learn everything that I did about how to trim hooves in time to help my own backyard goats.
Many people think of goats as cute and cuddly creatures that are simple to care for. However, hoof care for goats is not always easy, because they do not have the same level of mobility that other animals do.
Sometimes, their hooves can get so long that they curl under the animal’s feet and start to grow into their skin, causing major discomfort. If you are a goat farmer or just starting out with your first pet goat, this post will help you understand more about how to take care of them!
Hoof Care for Goats
These tips on how to care for a goat’s hooves should help you keep your goats happy and healthy!
1. Understand Hoof Anatomy
Before you can truly understand how to help care for your goats, you need to understand some basic hoof anatomy.
Goat hooves never truly stop growing. Like fingernails, hooves have external areas that are hard and durable in addition to a portion that is connected via nerve endings and a steady blood supply to the rest of the flesh.
You might be wondering why it’s necessary to care for hooves at all. The answer has to do with how goats are raised. In the wild, goats live on cliffs or ledges, often foraging around on the forest floor or on other rough terrain. Because of this, their hooves are naturally worn down and maintained at a proper length.
However, we tend to not keep goats in this kind of setting, instead placing them in a barnyard where they either stand on green grass or in a stall filled with straw or other kinds of bedding. Because of this, the hoof does not get worn down, and instead just continues to grow. This can become problematic.
Goat hooves are cloven, meaning that it is split into two primary hooves that operate independently of each other. Goats also have a pair of dewclaw hooves, which are located near the ankle (technically, on the goat, this is called a pastern). These aren’t for walking but instead, just aid in traction.
This unique hoof system makes it possible for goats to cling to surfaces and climb and balance on steep surfaces, like cliffs and ledges.
2. Know What a Healthy Hoof Looks Like
A healthy hoof will be shaped like a wedge, with a bottom shaped like two skinny teardrops. The width of the teardrop looks like a pad while the rest has a rubbery center with a teardrop-like frame around the outer edge.
A hoof that needs to be trimmed will have an outer frame that is growing and extending past this rubbery part. It might curl or even split. This is the part that must be trimmed. Some people also trim the pad or excess sections in other areas, too.
3. Provide Dry Bedding
Wet, rotten bedding can pose a whole host of problems for goats. Not only can it increase the likelihood of disease transmission among your herd, but it can also cause the rapid deterioration of hoof health for your goats.
Make sure your goats are not kept in wet conditions for long periods of time. The moisture will penetrate through the hooves, causing them to become soft, brittle, and prone to infections like hoof rot.
They say that cleanliness is next to godliness, and that’s prosaically true when you are raising livestock! By making sure the barns and pastures are clean, with stalls mucked out often and replaced with clean pine chips or straw, you won’t have to worry about the goats’ hooves being exposed to bacteria.
4. Rotate Pastures
Rotate pastures as often as you can. This will serve numerous benefits. Not only does fresh pasture increase the likelihood that your goats will be healthier and have access to fresh feed at all times, but the lack of muddy, overgrazed areas will also improve the hoof health of your goats.
Of course, rotating pastures will also help keep your goats healthy because it will reduce the likelihood of internal parasites – but that’s an article for another day!
Rotate goats often – there’s no magic number on how often you should move your goats to fresh pastures, but in general, you will want to do so before it becomes overgrazed. How often will depend on how many goats you have and the quality of forage that you are providing, as well as the weather and climatic conditions.
When moving your goats, make sure there’s no glass or metal debris that could potentially injure your goats. Don’t worry about rocks, though – these will help file down your goats’ feet and make them healthier, so you don’t need to pull them before moving your goats to the new area.
5. Trim Hooves Often
I’ll give you more information on how, exactly, to trim hooves below, but remember that trimming on a regular basis can help ensure that your goats’ feet remain healthy – and that your goats walk at a more comfortable gait. Leave the hooves too long and it will be difficult for your goats to walk.
In addition to long, overgrown hooves causing problems with rot and limping, they can also damage the joints in your goats’ knees and pasterns. Trim often to limit the likelihood of these problems!
6. Check Hooves Frequently
If you’re new to keeping goats, try to check their hooves about once a week. This will give you an idea of how quickly the hooves are growing. You don’t need to trim every week, but do take a look to see how quickly they are maturing.
Each goat will have hooves that mature at a different rate. This can be influenced by things like exercise, diet, and living conditions, as well as factors outside of your control (such as breed).
Goats need to have their hooves trimmed more often than sheep, often requiring trimming once (or even twice!) per month. If the goat hooves look like they are curling, it’s time to give them a trim.
7. Provide a Balanced Diet
One of the best things you can do to keep your goats (and their hooves!) healthy is to provide them with a balanced diet. Make sure your goats are getting enough protein and provide a quality mineral supplement that’s designed and formulated specifically for goats.
This will ensure that your goats have the calcium and other minerals they need to keep their hooves strong and healthy – and to prevent cracking and breakage.
How to Trim Hooves
Learning how to trim goat hooves is challenging. If you can, learn how to do it by practicing with someone who is experienced in raising goats.
Goats are known for having excellent memory. If you don’t do a good job trimming their hooves – or worse, injure your goats in the process – there’s a good chance that they will resist the shears and stanchion in the future.
Get it right the first time!
Most people trim hooves on a stanchion, which will allow you to keep your goats occupied with treats or grain with limited stress. However, you don’t have to have a stanchion in order to trim. Many goats may even allow you to trim while they are standing upright.
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You’ll need a pair of hoof shears and some wound spray, at the very least.
Take things slow, and handle the goat’s hooves with caution. Be firm yet gentle. Don’t let go when your goats fuss but instead, show them that you mean business!
There’s no need to be aggressive but don’t be passive, either, as this will allow your goats to push you around to get their way. Keep your hand on the pastern of the goat to calm it down.
Trim just a small amount the first time – this will reduce the likelihood of you taking off too much in the first go around. The best time to trim is after a heavy rain or dew, which will make the hoof softer and easier to cut.
Start by cleaning out all dirt that is in the sole and between the toes. Brush off any dirt or debris on the hoof so you can see clearly.
Then, use your shears to clip small amounts of matter from the hoof’s edge. You don’t have to worry too much about bleeding – the longer it’s been between trims, the farther the blood supply will have gone down the hoof.
For very long hooves, just trim tiny amounts until they get back to proper length. You don’t have to do this all in one day but can instead do it more gradually, too.
Try to keep the right angle as you cut. If you cut too short in the front or back, diverting away from the typical growth habit of the hoof, this can harm the way a goat walks and stands.
Stop trimming when you notice that the sole looks pinkish and all rotten areas are removed. If there’s any hoof rot, this is generally found along the hoof walls and near the toe’s tip, rarely occurring at the heel.
You can also trim dew claws. These should be done carefully, one snip at a time. Be extra careful cutting these, as they are typically quite hard and crusty, coming apart in large chunks all at once.
Once a hoof has been trimmed, you may notice that dirt gets stuck under the curl. It’s not a big deal! Just use a stick to carve out any dirt that’s embedded there. Using a stick or material with a rounded edge, like a popsicle stick, is a good idea to prevent injury, as is a farrier’s rasp.
If you cut too deeply while trimming, don’t panic. It’s easy to rectify. You may want to just spray a bit of wound spray on the injury. You can also use cornstarch to help the wound dry and get the blood to clot.
Sometimes, hooves don’t start bleeding right away. There is a bit of delayed response. You may want to trim hooves on a wooden stanchion or bit of plywood so you can make sure there is no blood either during or after trimming as well.
Get Help with Hoof Care From Experienced Goat Farmers!
When I was concerned about my goat, who was limping around and rubbing her feet on the steps, I called my friend Hope, a person who really knows what she’s doing when it comes to caring for goats.
In the year that we had our goat, we hadn’t yet trimmed our goat’s hooves. The people we got her from told us that they never trim their goat’s hooves.
They said they just give them a pile of crushed oyster shells or something hard for them to walk on. So, I didn’t think it was a big deal. I figured out a gravel driveway would be good enough.
First, I asked her if she trims her goat’s hooves. She told me she does. I went on to explain that I suspected Mocha had hoof rot. She asked, “How is she walking?” I said, “Well, she’s walking fine.” She said, “Oh, then she’s fine! If something was wrong with her hoof she’d be visibly limping.”
She explained that a goat’s hoof is supposed to be soft in the middle, like the pad of a dog’s paw, and the outside edge of the hoof is hard, like a dog’s toenails. That is the part that you trim, only the hard part around the outside edges. A hoof needs trimming when that hard part starts growing over the pad in the middle.
She suggested that I clean Mocha’s hooves. She uses warm water and a dental pick to clean in between the “V” of the hoof, to get all of the dirt out. She warned that it would stink, from all of the yucky stuff compacted in there.
She also added that if there was hoof rot, it would smell really foul, and there could be puss as well. If this was the case, then usually cleaning it out well and letting the air get to it would fix the problem. I also read that tea tree oil and lavender are good treatments as well.
Other Tips for Trimming Goat Hooves
To get a goat to be still while you clean their hooves, you can put a little food on the ground and have them kneel to eat, or you can make them lay down.
Some goats can go for years without their hooves needing to be trimmed, and others need it a lot more often. Use your judgment and watch your goats carefully to make sure their feet are healthy!
updated 04/15/2021 by Rebekah Pierce
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.