Article by: Fred Hoekstra
Following on from my earlier articles on tools, this month I would like to talk about angle grinders and discs.
The angle grinder is becoming increasingly popular for hoof trimming and I am often asked for my opinion about it. If it wasn’t for the angle grinder we would walk around with RSI. It does make the job easier and quicker, but there are a few things to be aware of. There are still people who use normal grinding discs meant for steel on hooves instead of the correct specialized discs. I am sure you wouldn’t use a hoof disc on steel; therefore you shouldn’t use a steel cutting disc on a hoof. The cutting disc will clog up very quickly and overheat the hoof (this is where the burning smell comes from), which causes damage to the live tissue of the hoof, and that is not our aim.
There is a range of discs available on the market made especially for hooves, yet I can appreciate that it may still seem like a daunting task to decide on the right one for you. Let’s have a look at some of those discs and what their pro’s and con’s are. The cheapest disc that we stock is the Wopa grain disc.
Obviously, the price is their biggest pro. It is an effective disc and will last for a good number of cows. Most people who use them tell me that they last for at least a year. The disc looks like a really coarse sand paper and many people think that it must be very aggressive. In this case looks are deceiving. It is not too aggressive but because of the way they are made it can lose some bits of grit as you work with it. This may unbalance the disc which will make it vibrate slightly.
Another disc we stock is the one made by Demotec in Germany. This is an aluminum disc with 7 little carbon blades in it. I was very impressed with this disc when I tried it out. It would be too slow for us as professionals dealing daily with large numbers of cows, to work with, but for a farmer it is ideal. It is a very well-balanced disc which leaves a nice clean smooth surface on the hoof. This makes it easier for the trimmer to see what he or she is dealing with. This disc is about $80 dearer than the grain disc, but the great thing about them is that you can turn the blades around as they have two sharp sides to them. When both sides of all 7 blades have been used you can replace the blades rather than the whole disc. This makes the disc more cost-effective in the long run.
The last disc I want to mention is the disc that we as full-time trimmers use. It is a professional disc that is available in aluminum and titanium. We would be very reluctant to recommend this disc to a farmer. It is very aggressive when the blades are sharp and I could almost guarantee that you would lose a cow if an inexperienced person were to use this disc. That may be enough to turn you away from this disc, if not, the price probably will!
Discs are great tools for hoof trimming and it will still work even if you cut in to stones, however this will dull the blades quicker and therefore it is advised that you flick large stones out first. It is also very handy for preparing the hoof for claw blocks. You may be worried about staff using discs and the risk of damaging the cow. That risk is always there, even with a sharp knife. We always need to be sensible when we trim cows’ feet, and a disc does not make a knife redundant!