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Make it easy

Dan Leer Published on 24 February 2014

As hoof trimmers, we rely on the cooperation of dairymen to make our routine visits effective and efficient, and there are a few simple things you can do to make this possible.

I have often thought the reason professional hoof trimmers have a niche occupation is because it is a difficult job. While this might be partially true, I believe I speak for myself and my hoof-trimming contemporaries when I say it is a combination of several unique challenges that make it a love-hate occupation.



1. It’s dirty.

2. It’s an acquired skill.

3. It takes the cow out of her normal routine and is a disruption on the dairy.

4. It’s necessary.

5. A lot of dairies are unique in their facilities.


With some thought and consideration on the part of the dairyman, some of these challenges can be managed to make trim day a better experience. Let’s take a look at ways dairy producers can make hoof trimming an easier task, thus reducing stress on the cows, people and trimmer involved.

Whether you want to trim biannually or you choose to plan your maintenance trims on a weekly or biweekly basis, you should always be thinking what is best for the herd and what is best for the people involved in doing the job.

1. Trim location
This is a primary concern. The location where trimming takes place should be an area that is clean with proper power for equipment, adequate room for portable chutes, room around the chute for temporary storage of supplies and an exit way for personnel.

Adequate fans and lighting are very important, particularly in summer, as well as shelter from wind and low temperatures in the winter. Cow flow to and from this area is imperative. Once the dairyman and trimmer have agreed on the site, make it the permanent site so it can be improved if necessary.

2. Cattle collection site
Whenever possible, I prefer a pen that will hold 10 to 15 cows comfortably and is situated close to the trim site so the majority of cattle are not in the holding pen for more than two hours.

A bud box and lane way system is my first choice to funnel cows single-file to the trim chute. Please note that if you are building a trim site, neglecting or sizing down this area makes it nearly impossible to be effective and certainly not efficient.


3. Personnel
All cattle handlers should be calm and slow to anger, including the hoof trimmer. If you are providing a helper, try to match personalities and work ethics along with cow sense.

If your labor situation does not allow for a helper, you should notify the trimmer in advance so he can plan accordingly or reschedule. If you expect trim day to go well, the cattle handling will have to work very well. One bad attitude can make a mess of the day.

4. Flooring and traction
A song comes to my mind when addressing this topic, “Slip-Slid’n Away.” When traction is not good, laying down a layer of barn grip, sawdust or even coal ashes can keep cows standing and walking with ease to the chute. Texture-milled concrete with sawdust on top is my personal favorite.

Other traction materials such as sand and limestone grit are hard on our knives, but knives can be sharpened more easily than replacing a cow due to poor traction. Another alternative would be rubber mats on the walkways leading to the chute. These mats work well and are available at a low cost.

5. Safety
It is the trimmer’s responsibility to keep his tools of the trade well-maintained and in good working order to ensure everyone involved is safe on trim day. Don’t ask your trimmer to do something you are not willing to do yourself. Bulls and unruly cows are even more excitable around the trim chute or in close quarters.

These animals should be separated from the cows scheduled to be trimmed and should be done only if absolutely necessary. Adequate precautions should be taken with the owner or herdsman present.

If you have considered these five areas of hoof trimmers’ concerns, you may be willing to incorporate them into a new facility or work them into the site you already have designated for trimming.

So what is left to make hoof trimming easy? I’m glad you asked.

Cow selection should be a major part of your hoof health program. The size of your herd and the capacity of your hoof trimmer or his team will determine if a whole-herd approach is best to maintain the size and shape of your cows’ hooves and prevent overgrowth, which results in sole ulcers and white-line lesions.

Whole-herd trims are not for every herd; however, weekly, biweekly or monthly appointments may be best in order to maintain your herd’s hoof health. Seventy percent of my clients are standing appointments, with cows selected prior to or on the day I am scheduled to trim. While the object of hoof trimming is maintenance, cows are usually selected by the following criteria:

• Severely lame cows

• Dry-off trims

• Open cows to stay in the herd

• Cows with a poor mobility score

• Cows with an overgrown claw

These five priorities, along with a simple observation of your cows walking back to the feeding or housing area, will provide the cows to select for your scheduled trim day.

All things considered, hoof trimming is neither easy nor clean; however, with proper planning of your facility and proper management of your labor and cows, you can make trim day easier on your cows and, ultimately, easier on your hoof trimmer. PD

Dan Leer is the owner of Dan Leer Hoof Trimming in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania. He can be reached by email .