Updated on 3/22/15, Originally posted on 3/20/11
Why do goat hooves need to be trimmed?
Goats that live in the wild usually wear down their hoofs naturally. Pet goats on the other hand or dairy goats, are usually kept in yards or pens and the goats are not out climbing rocky mountains all day. It is important to maintain the hooves of your goat so the leg and foot do not become deformed and/or painful. Also regular hoof trimming will keep the bottom of the hoof open so infection/rotting will not be as likely to happen.
Hooves need to be trimmed about every 1-2 months but it depends on the goat and what you are feeding them. The more grain and alfalfa you feed the faster the hooves grow thus the more frequent the hooves will need trimming. The hoof should not be competently curled over covering the sole, and if it is the hoof needed a trim sooner. Trim the outside edge of the hoof so that it is level with the rest of the hoof. We use lamb footrot shears made by Burgon & Ball for our smaller goats but you can use other brands. Be sure to keep the hoof trimmer receipt just in case they do not work. We went through two hoof trimmers until we found a third one that worked. Bigger breeds of goats have tougher hooves and are harder to trim so you may need to buy a hoof nipper made for horses. Smaller goats are much easier to trim. Baby goats or kids have the softest hooves and you must be especially careful not to trim too much or they will bleed quite easily.
How to hold the goat
To begin place your goat in a milk stand with grain or have someone hold the goat for you. Take the hoof firmly in your hand like in the photos above. Often people will hold a goats leg up too high when trimming. You should consider sitting or kneeling and always remember not to pull the goats leg in an unnatural position as you don’t what to injure the goat.
How to trim the hooves
We like to start at the tip of a toe on the outside of the hoof and work our way up towards the heel. You can decide to trim the left or right toe of the hoof first, it does not matter.
Takes your time trimming the hoof and don’t rush too much. Always take little bits off the hoof until you learn how far you can trim. If the hoof starts to look darker or pink under where you just trimmed, you took off a bit much and almost caused the goat to bleed. After you have removed some of the hoof, use the tips of your trimmers to clean out any debris inside the hoof.
After you have picked the hoof clean you can see a little better. Continue trimming until it is even with the bottom of the hoof. You must be careful not to trim off too much of the sides and tip of the toe or you will make the goat bleed. Always have styptic powder by you when you trim the hooves in case you cut too far. Kwik Stop or other styptic powders stop bleeding when applied to a hoof that is bleeding, the powder clots the blood and makes the bleeding stop. You can buy Kwik Stop or some other brand of styptic powder for dog nails at a pet store and use it for your goat.
Remember to trim the inside of the toe too and also the other toe of the hoof. When we have finished trimming both sides of both toes we like to trim a little off the tips of each toe. This helps to keep small rocks and other debris out of the hoof as it starts to grow back out. You may also need to trim off a little on the goats heel but do a little at a time so you don’t take off too much thus causing the goat to bleed. When you are done trimming, your goal is to have the sides of the toes even with the bottom of the goats soles. Repeat these steps until all the other three hoofs (or six other toes) are trimmed. Also note that if your goat is heavy over grown, you may not be able to trim all the hoof off because the hoof may start to bleed. For heavily over grown hooves, you will need to seek professional help and have them trim your goat’s hooves in multiply sessions in order to correct them.
Have a question?
Please leave a comment below. You can also talk to your vet or a farrier (a farrier is a person who trims and shoes horses’ hooves)