How to Trim Sheep and Goat Hooves
Sheep and goats need their hooves trimmed regularly. Not only will this help you detect and treat hoof problems before they turn into a serious condition, but overgrown hooves can make it difficult for sheep and goats to walk and lead to other more serious physical conditions. You need to check your sheep and goats on a regular basis and keep their hooves healthy.
Why You Need to Trim Your Sheep and Goats’ Hooves
Hooves are made out of the protein keratin, similar to human fingernails and toenails. This keratin grows constantly and needs to be maintained. When these animals live in the wild, they walk and explore, which naturally wears down the hooves. When sheep and goats live on farms, they don’t normally have the diversity of terrain that can aid in this process. As a result, owners need to trim their hooves regularly for their health and comfort.
The two main objectives in trimming their hooves are to make sure they are comfortable when they walk and to clean out dirt and debris that may be stuck in their feet. This makes them comfortable moving around and helps to prevent infections from the debris.
How Often Do Sheep and Goats Need to Be Trimmed?
In general, a sheep needs its hooves trimmed every six to ten weeks. It varies depending on the terrain, the time of the year, the age, and the individual sheep’s natural tendencies. The best practice is to check your sheep regularly to make sure its hooves aren’t overgrowing.
How to Know When it’s Time to Trim Your Goat or Sheep's Hooves
When your sheep or goat’s hooves are too long, the hoof walls will begin to grow past the foot and curl over on the toe. This causes pain when walking and provides a spot for dirt and debris to accumulate. In addition, it can grow over the heel, which makes the hoof even more uneven for moving around. If you notice that your sheep or goat doesn’t want to walk, it is quite possible that it needs a trim.
The two ways to tell that you need to trim the hooves are either seeing that they are too long or seeing that the sheep or goat doesn’t want to move around. These are clear indicators that it is time for a trim.
What to Do Before You Trim
You should try to arrange trimming the hooves after it rains or snows. If your sheep or goat is outside, it will walk around on the wet ground. The wetness will soften up the hooves and make them easier to trim.
Make sure that you have a good pair of gloves. This will protect your hands and make the trimming easier for you. In addition, you might want another person to help you. You will need to trim one hoof at a time and it can be helpful to have someone hold the animal while you focus on holding up the leg with the hoof that you are trimming.
You should practice picking up your sheep or goat’s foot. You will want to let it bend naturally; do not force it. If the animal is not accustomed to holding its foot up for you, this may take patience. Work with your sheep or goat until it grows accustomed to your picking up its hooves.
If the animal becomes stressed out or starts thrashing around, you may want to take a break and give it time to calm down. Once you are able to pick up the hoof, take the tip of your hoof trimming tool and begin to clean out the dirt and debris. Pay close attention to the area between the sole and the hoof wall.
How to Trim the Hoof
Although hooves look different from other kinds of fingernails or toenails, they are actually very similar. There is a sensitive area called the quick that is made up of soft tissue. Just as with human nails or dog nails, it is important not to trim too much, or you will hit the quick, which will be painful.
First, get yourself a good pair of hoof trimmers, then, start with the front of the hoof, and clip the overgrown portion of the hoof. Only do a small amount at a time so that you know exactly where you are. You will notice that the surface will be white as you go. Make sure that you stop at the white material as the next layer is pink and will cause bleeding if you go too far.
Next, you will trim along the sides of each toe. Keep moving around the hoof until you get to the heel. You need to trim the heel but do not trim the soft sole area. You will know when you should stop because the heel will also have a white material when you reach the end of your trimming.
Once you finish trimming, you need to make sure that you have left a level surface for your sheep or goat to walk on. If you do the trimming on a level surface, you should be able to look and make sure that its hoof lines up correctly to the ground. You should repeat the process on each foot, one at a time.
Potential Problems and Solutions When Trimming
Here are a few potential problems to look out for and how to handle them:
Cutting Into the Quick
If you draw blood, you can use flour or cornstarch to help clot the blood. If your goat or sheep is lame after a few days, you may need to call your vet to check for an infection or a need for bandages.
If your sheep or goat’s hooves are very overgrown, you may need to trim a little bit at a time over a period of a few weeks. The problem is that the quick will spread without trimming so you won’t be able to trim enough to get the hooves where you want them in one shot.
If you find an infection, you need to isolate the animal from others and treat it or call your vet. Hoof rot can be contagious so you need to treat it aggressively right away.