What is preventative hoof trimming? I have been on farms where they had done their own preventative hoof trimming during the year. When I started doing my trimming I had to explain what I was doing and it turned out to be quite different from the way that they did it. This made me wonder how many people out there actually understand preventative hoof trimming and what its benefits are.

Preventative hoof trimming is not cutting out white line cracks and any other issues that you may find in a claw. If anything, you will probably make things worse for the cow if that is all you do. If all lameness issues are caused by physical damage then it would make sense to cut out any deformities, but the problem starts on the inside of the claw, in the live tissue, not the outside. If the live tissue (corium) is unhealthy, then preventative hoof trimming will not heal it. But with preventative hoof trimming we can reduce the stresses on that corium enabling it to heal quicker.

The ideal is to have both claws on the one foot carrying the same amount of weight. If one claw is bigger (usually the outer one) it will carry more weight. This, in itself, is not necessarily a problem as most cows have a bigger outer claw than the inner one, but not all cows go lame. Most cows have laminitis as well but not all cows are lame because of that either, depending on how severe the laminitis is. A cow that has laminitis has all claws affected. If the outer claw is bigger and therefore carrying a greater proportion of the weight the corium is under more stress in that claw compared to the inner claw – this is why most cows are lame on the outer claw.

So, the first step that any preventative hoof trimming should entail is paring away the sole on the outer claw. This will reduce the weight and the stress on the live tissue in that claw. If we trim a cow that has a white line issue and we open it up, exposing the corium without taking the sole down, then there is a good chance that the corium will prolapse because that claw is still carrying too much weight. This obviously creates more problems for the cow than benefiting her.

I know it sounds simple and straight forward but it takes skill to achieve that balance. Both claws need to be level and flat, but on the other hand they are not allowed to get too thin either. That is why it takes more advanced training and time to become more proficient at hoof trimming. If you are keen to learn to become a better hoof trimmer then contact Veehof Dairy Services on 0800 833463 to find out what training options are available to you.