Hoof and Horn

A cows hooves are the base on which the whole beast stands. It follows then that if her hooves are in poor condition she will not be working as efficiently as possible.

Each hoof grows at a rate close to 5mm a month and normally this matches the wear experienced as the cattle move around. However we have had a fair bit of rain in the last few months so the ground is soft and not abrasive. Hoof wear in these conditions is minimised. The highlands seem to have been breed for a harder or faster growing hoof than other breeds so we elected to get the Gippsland Veterinary Hospital to bring out their rather splendid hoof trimming crush so we could get all the stock checked.

The machine is brilliant for poll or dehorned cattle, however it is more challenging when dealing with the big horns. The system works by the cattle pushing the head closed on themselves and once caught, hydraulics lift the animal. A belly strap provides a feeling of support, whilst various ropes allow for the hooves to be lifted locked into place.

Trimming was a quick process and very insightful as the vets talked us through what they were doing. An angle grinder was used to remove overgrowth around the edge and flatten the base. It was interesting to learn that darker hooves were stronger and the ideal length of hoof should be 7.5cm from the hairline to the tip of the toe.

We managed to trim the feet of 7 of the highlands, a couple of belted galloways and one of the murray grey’s in the machine. The adaption required to deal with the horns was not always successful so a few girls escaped and we reevaluated that method, opting for a second vet visit to trim their hooves a few days later using our own crush. This was a much slower process but just as effective and we were able to trim the remaining 5 highlands.

All in all the cattle hooves were a mixed bag – some needing no attention and others looking quite poor. Blondie in particular had a large crack in her back right hoof, where the horn had begun to shear off. Here are a few before and after photos:




During the second vet visit we took the opportunity to dehorn the two bull calves we have marked as commercial. One was around 3 months old and the other just 3 weeks, so two different methods were used. The younger had small spongy horn buds so a hot iron was used to destroy the horn forming tissues surrounding this. As the elder calf had some small horns beginning to develop the method used here was a scoop, which cuts out the horn and surrounding tissue. In both cases a local anaesthetic was administered as well as an antiseptic fly repellent spray.

Both days went well and next on the to-do list is another lot of drenching, fly treatment, calf vaccinations and the two bull calves will receive the rubber ring!


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