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Hoof trimmers are an essential part of dairy cows’ performance. They, myself included, often hear something like the following from dairy farmers:
“Keeping up with hoof trimming my cows has been a challenge over the past ten years. My cows’ hoof quality gets further behind every year. I realize my losses when I do not properly keep up, but it is hard for farmers in our area to find a hoof trimmer who is willing to travel. Do you know any hoof trimmers, or do you have any suggestions on to how to deal with this?”
Is finding a hoof trimmer a challenge for you?
After several years it is very common for the do-it-yourself hoof trimmer to want to delegate the trimming chore to someone else. Lameness is a daily occurrence on most farms, and there are many other aspects to dairy farming that compete for the farmer’s attention. As a result, there are often not enough hours in a day to give lameness your very best. Obviously, turning a blind eye to lame cows is not an option, and lameness, especially if neglected, is an often-underestimated expense.
Why should you keep lameness under control and at a low incident rate?
When your herd is healthy:
- It will be more fun being a dairy producer.
- You’ll have happier cows.
- And ultimately you should expect to see an increase in your bottom line (Return on Investment or ROI).
How do you maintain a healthy herd?
There are two steps to maintaining a healthy herd:
- Keep the focus on continuous hoof care.
- Stay focused on preventative trimming.
Let’s look at both steps in more detail.
Step 1: Keep the focus on continuous hoof care, just like mastitis
The herdsman is the person that is familiar with the cows: he sees them daily and knows each animal’s way of walking. Any observation that differs from a normal gait should be reported and dealt with as soon as possible. Keep in mind, however, to never panic when a cow goes lame, even when it is your best cow. Just focus on a protocol and follow its steps.
It is important to understand the causes of lameness and know the correct treatment protocols for each different problem. In reality, there are only a few hoof diseases among dairy cows. Being aware of them can help you keep your herd healthy and will contribute to improving the profitability of your dairy operation.
The saying “practice makes perfect” definitely applies to hoof trimming!
Therefore, it is important to tackle the hoof care basics by having an easy and safe way to lift a foot.
If you want to learn how to safely and efficiently lift a foot, read “Hoof Signals – Success Factors for Healthy Hooves.” This book uses colourful graphics and clear instructions to outline how you can properly manage your herd’s hoof care.
Step 2: Stay focused on preventative trimming
Once you have dealt with any lame cattle, the next step is to stay focused on preventative trimming.
At this point, you may be asking the following questions:
- Why should a professional trimmer be an asset to my operation and be part of my team?
- Where can I find a hoof trimmer that is willing and able to travel?
The first question is one that I commonly hear. In my professional opinion you should strongly consider working with a professional hoof trimmer for a number of reasons:
- The trimmer assists and educates the producer on how to treat lame cows.
- He finds and provides the producer with up-to-date research and relevant information about hoof health management. This includes topics such as product selection and footbaths.
- The hoof trimmer is part of your success team, along with other professionals when they are needed, including veterinarians and nutritionists.
- And lastly, the hoof trimmer trims the herd to prevent and control lameness. The trimmer also assists the producer with strategic maintenance programs (ongoing footbaths and herd-spraying methods).
In summary, maintaining a healthy herd requires:
- Timely treatment to deal with any active issues, and
- Preventative maintenance.
This approach will help you achieve your goals and maximize your ROI.
Where can I find a hoof trimmer?
The question of “Where can I find a hoof trimmer?” is also one that I commonly encounter.
The truth is that we could certainly use more hoof trimmers in Canada. I often, therefore, recommend this occupation to young men and women who do not mind some hard work and like the idea of being a valuable resource for dairy producers.
I have compiled a short list of some excellent resources you can use to find dedicated, professional hoof trimmers. These trimmers stand out because they look to bridge the gap between hoof trimmers, producers, and other professionals such as veterinarians and nutritionists.
Hoof Trimmers Association Inc.
You can visit their main website or have a look at their database of hoof trimmer members. This database is a great networking tool, as it also shows in which geographic locations the trimmers work.
You can also contact the president, Philip Spence, for more information.
The Ontario Hoof Trimmers Guild (OHTG)
The OHTG’s hoof trimmers meet and network in Ontario. One of its founding members, hoof trimmer Vic Daniel, is ready to answer your questions via his website: Vic’s Hoof Trimming Course.
The Western Canadian Certified Hoof Trimmers Association (WCCHTA)
The WCCHTA’s hoof trimmers network in Western Canada. You can have a look at their list of certified hoof trimmers.
Finally, let me know if the plan I outlined above works for you and your herd. I’d also love to hear if you were able to find a local hoof trimmer.
Feel free to forward any further questions you may have on our contact page.