Goats have hooves made of the durable protein keratin on their feet, just like your nails! And, like us, this constantly growing material requires upkeep for their health and comfort. A goat's hooves would naturally wear down in the wild due to frequent walking and climbing, but in most farm environments, hooves will not be worn down enough through activity alone. As a result, it is our responsibility to trim their hooves on a regular basis for their health!
A goat's hooves should be trimmed every six to ten weeks, though older goats and less active individuals (including those with Arthritis or CAE) may require more frequent trimming due to less normal usage wearing them down. Trimming a goat's hooves, like trimming your fingernails, should not be painful, though some goats may dislike the restraint required to properly assess and trim their hooves!
Trimming a goat's hooves serves two purposes: it gives them an even, comfortable walking surface to step on, and it cleans out accumulated dirt and debris that may have gotten caught in their feet to prevent infections.
The hoof walls are the most important aspect of goat foot care. If they are allowed to grow past the soft sole of the goat's foot, they will curl over on their toes, causing painful walking conditions and trapping dirt tightly against the area between the sole and hoof wall. It will also start to grow on the goat's heel, creating an uneven surface for him to walk on. Examine the goat's feet if it appears to be having difficulty or reluctance walking. You might be long overdue for a trim by then!
If possible, time your hoof trimming after a day in a wet pasture; a goat's hooves are much softer and easier to trim after a day in a wet pasture. However, keep in mind that hooves can become very hard during prolonged periods of extremely cold weather.
Some people prefer to wear thick work gloves for the trimming process, as hand protection can make the process much easier and more comfortable for you (especially if you are trimming multiple individuals in a row), making the goat more comfortable. Make sure your trimmers are sharp and well-maintained as well. Dull trimmers will only complicate the process and increase the amount of time the resident must be restrained. Furthermore, if you use extra strength to compensate for dull equipment, you may unintentionally put undue strain on the individual's joints.
Before attempting to lift or trim the goat resident's foot, ensure that they are safely restrained. Goats are frequently trimmed while standing. While it is possible to have someone (other than the person trimming) hold the goat in place, using a rope halter is usually much easier on everyone. When trimmed standing, each leg is lifted one at a time, requiring them to stand on the other three legs. Some people, particularly those with CAE or arthritis, may find it uncomfortable (or even impossible) to support their weight in this manner.
One popular method is to gently place them on their side while someone holds them to keep them from sitting up or flailing. Another alternative is to sit them up while someone restrains them, however this can be difficult depending on the individual's size. One advantage of both the seated and laying down procedures is that if you have enough people on hand, you may trim numerous feet at once, minimizing the amount of time the individual needs to be restrained.
Most goats will perform best if they are restrained in a standing position with one side against a wall. If you're going to use a rope halter, make sure to tie it off with a quick release knot and pay attention during the trimming process to make sure they don't put their head or neck in a dangerous position and that the halter doesn't slip down over their nose, which can impede breathing, all of which can happen if they're really struggling. Different people are more comfortable with different types of restriction, so before you start trimming, take the time to locate a posture that keeps them quiet.
The people involved will have their own preferences regarding restraint, just as each individual goat will have their own. While there are several ways to position yourself to trim hooves with the individual standing, it's frequently best to squat down next to their shoulder (the one that isn't against the wall) while facing their backend. This allows you to utilize your body to keep them from swinging away from the wall. You can then take up their front foot by raising it up towards their body and bending their leg along the natural motion of their knee
There's a risk the goat will fight you over this. Check that they are not injuring themselves by thrashing! If they're too upset, you might have to lower their foot carefully to the ground and try again when they're less stressed. Supporting their weight by placing their bent knee on your leg might sometimes help keep them calm. If bending their knee causes pain, they can also elevate their leg forward while maintaining their leg straight (as if they were extending their leg to place it on something). Because this is an unpleasant posture for the person, you may prefer to trim them when they are lying on their side instead.
Lifting a back foot can be more difficult if the goat is fidgety or resisting. If you have another person available, having them stand or kneel in the spot you positioned yourself when working on the front leg can be very beneficial. They can then be in charge of keeping the resident secure, allowing you to select a position that is comfortable for you (and the goat, of course). Depending on the size and behavior of the goat, this can be uncomfortable for the person and, if done for an extended period of time, can result in harm.
It's a good idea to be familiar with a variety of techniques. Even if you have a particular strategy, you may find that individuals require something different. When lifting the back leg, be careful not to lift it too high or you may injure yourself. Keeping the hock bent and not raised above the height of the stifle, as well as keeping the foot below the level of the hock, should help to prevent strain.
After trimming both feet that are not against the wall, gently adjust the individual so that their trimmed side is now against the wall and lift the opposite feet using the same approach.
Trimming a goat's hooves is conceptually comparable to trimming a cat's or dog's nails. Goats, like cats and dogs, have a sensitive patch of soft tissue in the center of their hooves called the quick. Cutting the quick by accident can be unpleasant and bloody, so be cautious about how much you trim.
After they've peacefully permitted you to raise their foot, use a brush to remove any surface debris from their feet. This will greatly simplify identifying the various components of their hoof! Then, with a clean pair of hoof trimmers or shears, carefully begin scraping off dirt and debris from the goat's foot, paying specific attention to the areas between the soft sole of their feet and the hoof wall. It's very possible that there will be a lot to dig out!
It is critical to keep the hoof in the proper form and angle. With the bottom edge of the hoof running parallel to the coronary band, a properly angled hoof will match the angle of the coronary band. The hoof wall and heel should be flush with the sole as well.
Depending on how overgrown the hoof is, you may want to begin trimming at the very tip of their toes, clipping the overgrown section of the toe tip a little at a time. As you trim, the surface of the remaining hoof wall will begin to turn white (or black, if they have black hooves). Trim only a small amount at a time, stopping if you notice pink spots, which usually implies you're getting close to live tissue that can bleed and cause pain if trimmed. Even if you do not draw blood, you may trim too far in some situations, resulting in sensitive parts of the foot that may cause discomfort when walking.
If the hoof is overgrown and folded over the sole, it may be easier to begin trimming at the hoof's outer edge, clipping the flap away. If you began at the toe tip, this will be your next stop as you make your way around the hoof wall until you reach the heel at the back of their foot. In some situations, the heel may need to be trimmed as well, but proceed with caution because this area is much softer than the hoof wall. The sole itself may need to be cut in some circumstances.
This must be done carefully, and it is best done by expert hoof trimmers who can evaluate if the sole has to be cut and how much trimming is required. Remember to keep an eye on the hoof angle and use the coronary band as a guide.
After you've leveled their hoof, inspect and clip the goat's dew claws (the claws that protrude from above their hoof on the back of their leg). They should only need a modest amount of trimming if they are routinely clipped. This maintenance becomes increasingly important as a goat grows older.
After you've finished all four feet, let them go and observe their movement. Do they walk normally? They'll let you know through body language if your trimming needs to be adjusted a little more for their comfort!
Apply an astringent such as a styptic pencil, styptic powder (such as Quick Stop), alum, or witch hazel if you accidently draw blood. You can also induce natural clotting by dipping the wound in cornstarch or flour. In the absence of these items, you can use a piece of toilet paper or gauze as though you had nicked yourself shaving! If the bleeding does not stop, apply pressure with the tip of your finger for up to a minute and repeat until the bleeding stops. To protect the sensitive area, the hoof may need to be bandaged temporarily in some circumstances.
In addition to the wrap, a blood stop product can be employed. Just remember to remove the wrap later that day or the next. A filthy, moist bandage may cause further hoof problems. Contact a veterinarian if the person continues to limp for several days following a trimming mishap.
If their hooves are severely overgrown due to a lack of hoof treatment, as in the case of a freshly rescued goat, trimming may need to be carried out over several sessions. You can work on getting the hooves closer to a suitable length and form during the first trimming and then return a few days or a week later to do the finishing touches. If your goat's hooves are considerably overgrown or deformed and you are unclear how to treat them, get advice from your veterinarian.
It is not uncommon for a goat's sole and hoof wall to be separated. This can become clogged with dirt and debris, causing additional hoof problems. In certain cases, you may be able to open or even trim out the entire pocket, but in others, the pocket may be very deep. Work with your veterinarian or another skilled hoof trimmer to establish how much to trim, as you don't want to expose delicate tissue while also taking precautions to avoid future problems. In rare circumstances, selecting the area and then cleaning it may be necessary.
If you did a bad job leveling out a goat's hooves to the point that it is impeding their mobility, contact your veterinarian for an evaluation. You don't want to inflict long-term damage with additional corrective attempts!
If a goat has foot rot (also known as hoof rot), you'll probably notice it right away; their foot may have a strong stink! Red, moist, inflammatory tissue between the claws, mild to severe detachment of the hoof wall from the sole, and a black tarry appearance are further signs of foot rot. Individuals suffering from foot rot frequently have rot in more than one foot, and both claws are frequently damaged. Foot rot can cause substantial lameness in goats, causing them to walk on their knees.
Foot rot is a bacterial ailment that can affect both sheep and goats. It is most frequent in locations with warm, wet weather, with transmission peaking in the spring and fall. In addition to moist weather, enlarged hooves can increase the likelihood of foot rot infections. Though numerous bacteria are frequently present, Dichelobacter nodosus (previously Bacteroides nodosus) must be present for real foot rot to be considered.
Fusobacterium necrophorum is the other bacteria most commonly associated with foot rot, however its absence does not produce real foot rot. F. necrophorum causes interdigital dermatitis (often known as "scald") on its own, but it can make the foot susceptible to infection with D. nodosus. There are various D. nodosus strains with varying degrees of pathogenicity. Clinical indications in goats, unlike in sheep, are not necessarily a good diagnostic of whether they have a benign or virulent strain.
If you suspect a goat has foot rot, make an appointment with your veterinarian (s). Foot rot is often diagnosed clinically, though less severe instances may be difficult to distinguish from interdigital dermatitis. Trimming the hoof, applying a topical antibiotic therapy (tetracycline is a common one), or medicated foot baths, and possibly systemic medicines are all part of the treatment.
Goats with infectious foot rot should generally be isolated from other sheep and goats; depending on the situation, your veterinarian may recommend fully isolating the affected individual, or they may recommend taking measures to prevent the spread to other groups of sheep and goats that have not yet had contact with the individual.