It’s well known that farmers take good care of their animals, but can you believe that some cows get a regular pedicure? Well, believe it! Cows’ hooves are basically the equivalent of human nails and they need a surprising amount of care to keep them healthy.
Cow hooves need regular trimming to keep them from becoming overgrown and to prevent any cracks, bruising, or pressure spots from developing. The procedure is usually carried out with an angle grinder and specialist trimming tools, and although it looks painful it doesn’t hurt the cows at all.
In this article we’re going to look at this interesting aspect of owning cows, learn why cows need their hooves trimmed, how to trim them, and what would happen if you left them untrimmed.
Do All Cows Hooves Need to be Trimmed?
Most modern farm cows need their hooves trimmed. Although some cows are kept on pasture land that is abrasive enough to wear down their hooves naturally, hoof trimming helps ensure the hooves grow evenly, preventing future injuries and keeping the cow comfortable.
Even if a cow doesn’t need their hooves trimmed, farmers usually opt to have their hooves checked by the hoof trimmer every six months or so to check for any toe injuries and to help prevent lameness.
Hoof trimming can be expensive for large herds, but makes up only a small portion of the total costs of owning a cow.
Both dairy and beef cattle need their hooves trimmed, and it doesn’t matter what breed they are.
How Often do Cow Hooves Need Trimming?
According to the Univerity of Kentucky, healthy adult cows should have their hooves trimmed roughly once every six months.
Although a healthy cow may only need a light trim of their hooves every six months, there are a few different scenarios where a cow needs more regular hoof care, including:
- Cattle who are older may have less tolerance for bruising and thus need more frequent hoof care
- Cattle who had a previous hoof injury may need more frequent trimming to ensure the hoof doesn’t grow unevenly
- Cows who spend a lot of the time in damp or wet conditions need more frequent hoof care because they are more prone to foot-rot, a condition that causes the skin under the hoof to become infected.
Cow calves (under one year) don’t need their hooves trimmed, since cow hooves are soft when calves are born, and their hooves take a long time to harden and grow strong.
Read More: How Long Does It Take To Raise A Cow?
Why Do Cows Hooves Need Trimming?
“Hoof trimming” sounds almost the same as getting a hair cut, or trimming your nails, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Hoof trimming is absolutely crucial for cows. Hoof injuries are a major cause of lameness in cattle and regular trimming is vital to keep the cows healthy.
When the farrier comes to check and trim the cows’ feet, they are not only trimming the excess hoof, but checking for any abnormalities that could indicate an issue under the hoof, evening out the two sides of each hoof to ensure the cow can spread their weight evenly, and repairing any damage to the hooves to prevent problems in future.
A qualified farrier can also treat cows with antibiotics and perform minor surgeries on the cow’s foot in some jurisdictions, while in others this type of treatment can only be carried out by a veterinarian.
Let’s take a look at some of the reasons cows need their hooves trimmed:
1: Remove Excess Hoof
According to Pennysylania University, cow hooves can grow by up to twi inches every year.
Without regular trimming, excess hoof growth can cause the cows to experience trouble walking and cause bruising of their sensitive skin underneath their hooves.
Over time, this bruising can cause more serious problems like laminitis, which is a major cause of lameness in cattle.
2: Even Out Their Hooves
Cows have cloven hooves, which means they have two main front hooves and one small hoof at the back (called a dew claw).
If each hoof doesn’t grow exactly evenly, or if the cow has a tendency to put their weight on one side of their body more than the other, over time their hoof will grow abnormally and cause the cow problems with walking.
Uneven hooves are one of the major signs a farrier looks for when checking cow hooves, since they often develop when a cow has an unseen injury and tries to shift their weight off a sore spot.
3: Repair Damaged Hooves
Hooves are hard on the outside, but with soft and fragile tissue inside. When the hoof gets damaged, it’s a major problem for cattle because it can let dirt and bacteria into the core of the hoof, causing infections.
When a farrier trims a cow’s hoof, they will grind out any cracks or holes in the hoof to make sure they don’t get all the way into the inner core of the hoof where bacteria could cause infections.
Where the inner hoof is exposed, large parts of the hard outer hoof often have to be completely removed and the hoof treated with antibiotics to kill any infection. In these cases rubber blocks are used to stop the sensitive inner hoof from touching the ground while the hoof has a chance to grow back healthily.
Related Article: Do Cows Have Toes?
How Cow Hooves are Trimmed
Cow hooves are usually trimmed by a farrier, a hoof specialist who deals with horse and cow hooves.
Farriers use specialist farrier tools for grinding, scraping, slicing, and cleaning cow hooves. They may also use bandages, rubber blocks, antiseptic sprays, and special adhesive called bovibond that can stick to cow hooves to help them heal.
Does Hoof Trimming Hurt Cows?
As long as cows don’t have any damage to their hooves, regular hoof trimming doesn’t hurt them at all. In a cow’s hoof, the nerves are all located in the sensitive inner core of their hooves (called the corium), so trimming the outer horn is painless.
When a cow has an injury, it’s normal for hoof trimming to be painful, but repairing damage to a cow’s hoof is vital for their health and will help them be more comfortable in the long-term.
Related Article: Do Cows Get Ticks and Fleas?
Cows need their hooves trimmed regularly to check for any abnormalities and repair any damage to the hoof, which if left unchecked could cause major health issues including laminitis and sole ulcers.
Hoof trimming is usually carried out by a farrier, although sometimes it’s done by a vet instead. Farriers use special grinding, scraping, and cutting tools to trim back any excess horn and may also use basic medical supplies like bandages and antiseptic to treat any wouds or infection.
Although it can be stressful for cows to be in a cattle crush with someone poking aroud at their feet, it’s a crucial and essential part of keeping cattle healthy and comfortable.
Stuart is the editor of Fauna Facts. He edits our writers’ work as well as contributing his own content. Stuart is passionate about sustainable farming and animal welfare and has written extensively on cows and geese for the site.