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Hoof trimmers discuss stray voltage, floors at getaway

Edwin ‘Skip’ Blake for Progressive Dairyman Published on 18 July 2018
Some feel the toes were too square

Eighty-seven hoof trimming enthusiasts attended this year’s Wisconsin Hoof Trimmers Getaway held in Tomah, Wisconsin, February 10-11.

Here, they learned how to become even stronger advocates and resources for their dairy farmer clients while developing their businesses.

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To kick off the event, trimmer Skip Blake presented business advice, including challenges facing the dairy industry.

Trimmers were cautioned they may need to adjust some of their current business practices to remain competitive. Blake also relayed how trimmers are viewed by others in the industry and the importance of working with different professionals, including nutritionists and veterinarians.

All too often, nutritionists give trimming advice without properly evaluating hooves or observing the trimmer. Few things frustrate an experienced trimmer more than when he or his hoof trimming client get trimming advice from an inexperienced or uneducated source. He encouraged trimmers to meet with nutritionists and combine efforts for overall better hoof health.

Stray voltage

The next speaker was Jerry Lush, an agricultural engineer who has worked with stray voltage issues for over 30 years. Lush’s goal was to help trimmers understand signs and symptoms that stray voltage is present in a dairy facility. Stray voltage is defined as voltage of 10 volts or less between two contact points.

Many in the dairy industry agree 1 volt is when there is a problem. Through his years of observation, Lush believes even half a volt may be of concern.

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Stray voltage can be found anywhere on a farm, including parlors, milklines, holding areas and waterers. One common sign of stray voltage is when cows lick waterers rather than fully putting their mouths in the water. Other signs are high cell counts, low or fluctuating production, uneven milkouts and cows reluctant to enter certain areas.

As humans, we don’t experience the same tolerance to electricity as cows because our gloves and shoes insulate us from feeling what the animals feel. That is why it’s critical to observe cow behavior and changes in behavior as an indicator of potential stray voltage issues.

Causes of stray voltage are related to neutral or grounding problems derived from poor wiring, short circuits, bad connections, variable speed drives and bad electric cords (Table 1).

Common causes of stray voltage:

Some solutions are converting to 240-volt loads, balancing 120-volt loads, correcting wiring issues and using good extension cords with ground wires. Another possible solution on some farms is to isolate the primary neutral at the transformer. Additionally, some farms have reduced stray voltage by installing an equipotential plane.

Dairy facility floors

Scott Potter, owner at Pro Concrete Grooving, also spoke at the event. Potter grooves concrete flooring throughout southern Wisconsin. The goal of floor grooving is to provide stability and traction for cows to walk safely and comfortably.

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There should be enough area between grooves so hooves have ample surface area for the cow to stand on (stability) as well as enough grooving to provide proper friction (traction). Potter recommends grooves to be a three-quarter-inch in width, a half-inch deep and 3¼ inches center-to-center (Table 2).

Floor recommendations

These dimensions are consistent with recommendations from the University of Wisconsin. Smaller dimensions may be advisable for smaller breeds.

When it comes to grooving, Potter said grooves should run in the direction cows are generally walking. In common areas where cow movement is random, grooves should be in the direction the area is cleaned or scraped. Potter discussed other challenges, including slope.

Grooves should run in the direction cows are generally walking

He recommends no more than 1 degree of slope and highly discourages any slope over 4 percent, as anything greater is not safe for cattle. Elevation changes greater than 4 percent would be better served with steps.

Potter recommends with any expansion or new construction, trimmers should be consulted, as they can have input not only where they will be set up but also on cow flow patterns.

Remember, plan before concrete is poured. New concrete should be poured and cured before grooving rather than floating in grooves. Additionally, many facilities may need to be regrooved, especially in high-traffic areas that have been worn down as opposed to regrooving entire buildings.

Italian hoof health

Dr. Leonardo Armato followed Potter as the next speaker. Armato is a veterinarian and doctorate recipient from Italy; however, he considers himself foremost a hoof trimmer, as that’s what he does. Armato gave a presentation on the dairy industry in Italy and the role and challenges trimmers face there.

Most of their challenges are like those we experience in the Upper Midwest. Italy does not have an organized hoof trimmers association, but he sees the need in starting one.

Armato then presented some of his research on hoof health, which involved taking x-rays and thermal images of hooves. One of the interesting observations was a noticeable increase in temperature readings in infected hooves.

‘Hoof Talk’

The next presentation was “Hoof Talk,” an interactive exercise on various ailments in hooves and ways in which they are treated. As photos of hooves were presented, audience members gave feedback as to how they would treat identified hoof insults. Not surprisingly, not all trimmers would handle each ailment the same way. There was some debate on how often wraps should be used.

Most trimmers still wrap Mortellaro (digital dermatitis, warts), yet fewer wrap ulcers and abscesses. Most trimmers consistently use blocks when treating white-line abscesses, but there is some discrepancy on blocking ulcers. Some trimmers don’t block if the cow doesn’t seem to be lame, while other trimmers block any and all cases of ulcers as a precaution.

The highlight of this session was trimmers rating others’ trims. During this portion of the presentation, several pictures of trimmed hooves were put on display, and audience members evaluated trimming techniques. This portion of the presentation was facilitated by the help of Bill Kopperud, a trimmer with more than 30 years experience and one of the original founders of the Hoof Trimmers Association.

Although there was some debating as to how much hoof was or wasn’t removed or what could be done differently, there were no personal attacks against different trimmers or techniques, and most trimmers respected the opinion of others.

After dinner on Saturday night, a benefit auction was held with items donated by sponsors and trimmers. Money raised was donated to a few notable causes, including Shrine Hospitals for crippled children, Veterans Strong and FFA scholarships for students studying agriculture.

The second morning kicked off with Richard Weingart, a past president of the Hoof Trimmers Association, who gave a summery of the recently held Illinois Hoof Clinic. The featured speaker there was Dr. Ladd Siebert, who presented the Kansas method of hoof trimming.

Weingart was followed by a panel discussion led by Justin Addy, Midwest representative of the Hoof Trimmers Association. Four trimmers were asked various questions about their businesses, including equipment used, challenges they see in the industry, what motivates them and tips they use to stay warm in the winter.

The program concluded with an update from Vic Larson, the current president of the Hoof Trimmers Association.  end mark

PHOTO 1: When trimmers evaluated this picture, some felt the toes were too square.

PHOTO 2: Scott Potter says grooves should run in the direction cows are generally walking. Photos provided by Skip Blake.

Edwin ‘Skip’ Blake

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