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How to Trim a Goat’s Hooves in 5 Simple Steps to Prevent Infection

For some people, homesteading is scary. You have to deal with animals, plants, and a whole new different lifestyle. Well, one thing I’m learning to overcome is the fear of trimming my goats’ hooves. That may not sound like a scary thing, but I hate running the risk of hurting one of my animals.

So trimming their hooves was always a really scary thing to me, until I learned how to do it correctly. That is why I’m going to share with you how to properly trim your goat’s hooves. That way you can do it safely and your goats can be healthy and vibrant.

Here is how you trim your goat’s hooves:

What You’ll Need:

1. Place the Goat on the Milking Stand

Goats are not huge fans of having their hooves trimmed. So for their safety and yours it is a good idea to place them on a milking stand while performing this task.

Which means, you’ll need to first make sure you have a milking stand on hand. If not, this is a great resource for building your own milking stand.

Once you have the milking stand ready, you’ll need to place a favorite grain in the bucket of the stand to encourage the goat to be happy while on the milking stand.

For my goats, sweet feed is a must on a milking stand. They rarely get sweet feed so it is a big deal when it comes out.

So whatever treat keeps your goats happy is what you’ll want to use. Once you have your goat secured on the milking stand, you’re ready to begin.

2. Let Them Pitch a Fit

When you begin the hoof trimming process you’ll want to grab the hoof that you’re working on and bend it at the knee. This is so you can have a better grip and be in a better position to work on the hoof itself.

However, your goat probably is not going to like this. Let’s be real for a second. You are making them stand on three hooves which probably isn’t the most comfortable position for them.

And you’re interrupting their snack.

So naturally, they are going to be a little peeved. It is better to let them stomp their feet and try to flop you off of their hoof before beginning the trimming process.

As I mentioned before, I was always terribly afraid of cutting to close to the quick of the hoof. If they are fighting against you, it ups your chances of it actually happening. That is why it is better to let them get their fit out of the way before beginning the actual trimming process.

3. Start at the Front and Work Around

This is a preference, but you’ll need to pick a rhythm to trim the hooves in. If you start at the front and then go to the back hoof.

Then over to the other back hoof and finish on the opposite front hoof, then you aren’t having to moving so much. For me, starting in the front and working around is just a smoother method.

But truly, it is your call. If you find a better trimming rhythm for you, then by all means, go for it.

So once you have picked the hoof that you are going to start with and your goat is over their fit of awkwardness, then you’ll need to bend the hoof back at the knee.

Then you’ll line the clippers up with the overgrown part of the hoof and clip that part off. There are a few details that will help you not to trim the hoof too close, but I’ll discuss those in greater detail further down in this post.

4. Sit Behind the Goat to Trim Back Hooves

When you move around to the backside of the goat, you’ll want to sit behind the goat instead of beside it. It just makes for an easier time trimming in my opinion.

So again, when you get situated, you’ll want to bend the hoof at the knee so you have a better grip for trimming.

Then begin to slowly trim the overgrown part of the hoof (the front wall) down to where it should be. That is when it is even with the rest of the hoof.

Also, you should trim the heel gradually as well. You’ll want to clip it down until it is even with the sole of the hoof.

5. Start Trimming…Slowly

This is the trick to properly trimming goat hooves. You’ll need to trim the hooves very slowly. Instead of going in with the hoof clippers and snipping away, you’ll want to make smooth, shallow strokes so you don’t cut too close.

Then you’ll get the hooves nice and even without causing the goat to bleed.

However, it is obvious when you are getting close to the quick (which is the blood flow in the hoof.) You’ll realize it because the hoof begins to turn pink. When you see any sign of pink on the hoof, then you’ll know to quit trimming because you are getting close.

But if you do end up getting too close on the goat’s hoof, don’t panic. Instead, sprinkle a healthy dose of the Blood Stop Powder on the hoof and it should help stop the blood quickly.

Other Trimming Options:

Nothing will really take the place of the proper trimming techniques for trimming goats’ hooves. If you don’t trim your goats’ hooves, they could potentially get to the point where they can no longer walk properly.

However, if you trim their hooves unevenly, it can leave them struggling to walk too. So here are a few alternatives to traditional trimming that may help you to prolong your trimming times.

1. Cinder Blocks

I’ll admit, I used this method for far too long when I was afraid of trimming my goats’ hooves. But it did help keep their feet from being much of a problem.

However, one day I looked at my billy goats’ feet, and I began to see the sides becoming overgrown. So I knew it was time to bite the bullet and just trim his hooves.

But I still use cinder blocks in their goat yard. What I do is stack 5-6 cinder blocks up in a pyramid formation. That way the goats will prance up and down the formation because they love to climb.

Yet, while they are climbing up and down, they are trimming their hooves. You will have to change out cinder blocks periodically because the goats will wear them down to where they become smooth and lose their effect.

So basically, it is no different than walking you dog on concrete in order to keep their nails trimmed. You just let them prance and let the concrete do the trimming for you.

As I said, it worked for a very long time with my goats. Actually, I think what made it stop working on my billy goat was the fact that I failed to change out the cinder blocks when they became smoother. I didn’t realize how much he had worn them down until it was too late.

So I definitely recommend this method for maintenance of hooves. Your goats will love it, and as mentioned, it should keep you from having to trim their hooves as frequently.

2. Pruning Shears

Let’s say you are working on a budget. Hoof trimmers aren’t out of this world expensive by any means, but there are times when you are working on a shoestring budget.

So what can you use instead to help you get the job done but not have to spend any extra money?

Well, you can invest in some pruning shears. If you are a homesteader or an avid gardener, chances are you already have some.

These pruning shears should do the same job at the hoof trimmers as they are basically the same thing. Depending upon the type pruning shears, the head of them may be a little more curved than the hoof trimmers.

So you’ll just have to make a few more shallow snips on the hooves and use a little extra precaution. But you should be able to safely trim your goats’ hooves with them without much of an issue.

We have even provided a guide to help you pick the best pruning shears for your homestead. Hopefully it will help you save some money while trying to take on the adventure of pruning your goats’ hooves.

A Few Word of Caution:

When trimming your goats’ hooves, it is very unlikely that anything catastrophic will take place, but you should pay close attention in some cases.

For instance:

1. If You Cut Too Close

If you cut your goats’ hooves too close, you need to pay attention. Usually a goat will limp for a couple of hours.

However, if your goat is still limping days later, then you need to revisit that goat’s hooves. Make sure that no infection has set-up anywhere.

If so, then you’ll need to call the vet immediately to make sure that the infection gets nipped quickly.

2. If Your Goat Isn’t Walking

Sometimes if the hooves get trimmed unevenly, then it becomes difficult for a goat to walk. If you’ve recently trimmed your goat’s hooves and then they suddenly are struggling to walk, then you’ll need to examine that.

If you find that the hooves are uneven, then try to even them up the best you can. If you are still struggling, then call the vet. You don’t want to do long-term damage trying to fix the hooves.

3. If Your Goat’s Hooves Are Really Overgrown

There are some instances when a goat’s hooves become extremely overgrown. If this is the case (and you are a beginner to hoof trimming) then you need to call in a professional. The reason is that extremely overgrown hooves have to be cared for in a multi-step process.

So they’ll begin by trimming small amounts of the hoof away. This is done in order to cause as little discomfort to the goat as possible.

If this is your goat, then call a vet and begin the healing process. Once the hooves are taken care of, then you can try to begin caring for them so they don’t get out of hand again.

4. If Your Goat’s Hooves Are Smelly and Oozing

There is a disease that goats can get in their foot called foot scald which eventually turns into foot rot. This happens because of the levels of copper and sulfur in a goat’s diet.

So as the scald progresses, it will cause foot rot. This will cause a foul odor to come from the hooves and then pus to discharge from the hooves as well.

This is corrected by cutting away the unhealthy tissue on the hoof, and then correcting the copper and sulfur levels within the goat.

However, if your goat has this, you may want to contact a vet to help so you don’t accidentally trim away healthy hoof tissue in the process.

Now you are aware of how to trim a goat’s hooves, the few things that can potentially happen if you trim them improperly, and when you should grow concerned.

But now I want to hear from you. What has your experience been with trimming goat hooves? Are there any tricks of the trade that you’d like to share? I’m always looking for anything that makes this task a little easier because I’m always fearful of cutting too close by accident.

Are there any other things we should be on the look out for while trimming goat hooves or after the trimming is complete?

Comments:

  1. That was a really good article Gina! I have had goats for a long time (weed eaters and pets) so don’t have a milking stand and 2 of mine are about 90 KGS! I stand facing the back and bend the knee and put the lower part of the leg between my knees with these big goats so I have two hands free to deal with the hoof!! Works well with big goats. Cinder blocks great idea for regular maintenance must get some. Thanks

  2. Thanks Gina, I’ve been hesitant about trimming my goats since it’s just me. Thank you for mentioning the milking stand. I NEVER thought of that. I’ve cornered them in a stall a couple of times n I always wondered how I would be able to do all four hooves on one goat….LOL I’ve been feeling like a terrible goat mom until I saw the boer with the overgrown “fingernails” WOW Thanks so much for all the info.

  3. Foot scald lies between the bulbs of the heal. It usually appears due to wet weather or mud. The sand or dirt rubs a sore their. It appears as a pink or light area, about the size of a dime or much smaller. It will turn slimy feeling. It dose not have a smell. A slight limp and eventually refusing to walk on the foot are signs. Their will be no heat (fever) in the hoof until it progresses to foot rot. The bacteria that grows due to foot scald plus another bacteria that is present in the soil combine to create foot rot in goats and sheep. Which i thik is the same bacteria that causes thrush in horses. I wash the foot in zinc sulfate solution any way to clean the sand out from between the bulbs of the heal. Let the foot dry if possible. I brush mind and they will be happy to stand their for a few minutes. Put them in a dry stall for a day or two with a friend of course. Zinc sulfate can be purchased at your local feed store in the plant department or at a garden / plant supply store. Usually in a 4 lb bag. The 50 lb bag has lasted more than 10 years with 33 head. Mine heats up when mixed up with water. I mix about one pint to a 1/2 gallon of water, which is about double the zinc sulfate. It is used for foot rot also. You can soak two to three times a day for two to three minutes. It will sting their sore. Like macuricom (spl?) usta burn out sores. Also when trimming hoofs, most animals struggle because their feet and legs are in painful positions. Run you hand from the top of the body down the leg to the foot. They can feel this and will learn what it means if you do it every time. Start with a front foot every time until you get them trained to pick up their feet. keep the leg under the body, don’t pull it out sideways to much causing pain in the knee. Don’t turn the toe up to high. It is like bending your finger back. Humans are made to bend at the waist, but we forget this. Implement it if possible. Don’t raise the hind leg up to high. Learning how not to cause pain when foot trimming is a large part of allowing the animal to stand still. A horse buddy can help you learn this and show you how. Make your trimming stand higher if you need to, just make a safe and easy non slip way to get them up their. Some over weight, Old and heavily pregnant animals cant climb very high. Knee pads help. Mana pro makes some small treats that are less than a inch big. They come in one pound and 4 lb bags. A sheep, in labor, prolapsing, jumped in the back seat of the truck for these treats, and back in a couple hours later after after her emergency c-section. (Twins, ewe and ram 3 years old now) Teach your animals to lead and tie. Get them hooked on a treat. Grain is hard to carry in your pocket and grab in an emergency.

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