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Three keys to making the most of your hoof trimmer

John Esplin Published on 09 March 2015

Every dairy farmer wants a good hoof trimmer to put his dairy as the top priority when scheduling service. As with any other business, a hoof trimmer will likely place those dairies that have shown some loyalty at the top of the list.

Also, a hoof trimmer will usually prefer (and therefore prioritize) the dairies that provide a somewhat comfortable working environment. Human nature dictates that a service provider will be more conscientious about the work when he or she feels appreciated and expects more attractive work conditions. In short, think of where you would rather work, especially in a season of ugly weather.

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1.Provide a friendlywork environment

Having a well-lit and clean area for your hoof trimmer to work is beneficial. This is not simply for the sake of the trimmer. A clutter-free, clean area with good lighting bolsters your bottom line as well because it is more likely hoof ailments will be seen and treated early.

A work area with reasonably clean footing material is helpful as the cows will go into and out of the hoof trimming area and chute more calmly, reducing the chance of cows slipping.

While some hoof trimmers accept a work site with very dry, separated manure for footing, many are quite insistent on a surface with new shavings or sawdust. In either case, it is cost-effective to use sufficient and suitable footing material in the hoof trimming area.

It is important to note that this is not simply for the convenience of the trimmer; it is better for the animals and, ultimately, for the dairyman. Cows are less likely to be injured and more likely to be properly and promptly treated.

2.Communicate clearly

Clear communication with your hoof trimmer is a smart idea. Even if you have a regular service schedule, it’s a good idea to ask your hoof trimmer to contact you and remind you when he will be at your facility.

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This not only reminds you when he will be there so you can schedule appropriate sorting of animals in need of hoof work, but it also lets you know that your hoof trimmer hasn’t forgotten. We are, after all, human too.

While no professional is able to correct the problems of every lame cow, your hoof trimmer’s work should have a high success rate. It’s always wise to communicate with your hoof trimmer about those treatments that appear to be working and those that don’t.

A failed business relationship is often the result of poor communication, not incompetence or indifference. Find out what treatment protocols your trimmer uses, and let him know what works and what doesn’t.

Punctuality in trimming appointments should be a given. However, it’s a good idea for the dairy farmer to let the hoof trimmer know punctuality is important. (This is not always the case.) If the trimmer knows your priorities, he’s far more likely to meet your expectations.

Again, it comes down to communication. On the flip side, it is reasonable for your hoof trimmer to expect you to have cows corralled and ready at the scheduled time. Your time is valuable, and your hoof trimmer considers his time valuable as well.

Professionalism and a good outcome are important to the hoof trimmer. Accordingly, the trimmer wants to do a good job with your cows in a timely manner. That being said, it stands to reason that rushing the hoof trimmer, effectively pushing him to get the cows done and through the chute as fast as possible, may be counterproductive.

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Successful dairy farms have full schedules with feeding, milking, vet work, etc. Anything that interrupts cow flow and traffic is an inconvenience, and an experienced hoof trimmer knows this. Still, experience has shown that allowing the hoof trimmer to take whatever time he needs will probably net better hoof health results. Doing the job right is almost always better than doing the job fast.

Twenty years’ experience has convinced me that virtually all problems between the dairyman and the hoof trimmer are a result of poor communication. If you feel there is a problem regarding your hoof trimmer’s work or scheduling, a prompt conversation is both wise and necessary.

This usually clears up such problems. However, if it appears to you that your hoof trimmer is too busy or too proud to talk to you, perhaps you need another hoof trimmer.

3.Expect specific information from your trimmer

The days when the hoof trimmer just counted how many cows he trimmed, how many blocks and how many wraps he did should be in the past.

Expect some specific information from your hoof trimmer, including a list of which animals he worked on (not just how many), and specifics on the problems encountered, which hoof they occurred on and the method of treatment. Ask your hoof trimmer to leave this information at your farm, in a specific place or with a specific person, after every visit.

If your hoof trimmer is returning the cows he has worked on back into their respective corrals, be certain you have clearly communicated where the cows are to go.

In a tradition of military precision, one of my clients always identifies the exact pen to which a group of animals are to be returned, and then insists that I repeat the instruction to him.

Some may think this to be unnecessary redundancy, but I appreciate and respect this herdsman’s insistence on clear communication. It drastically reduces the chance of misunderstanding.

Summary

In summary, the most significant steps you can take to get the most out of your hoof trimming professional are quite simple:

1.Provide a reasonably clean area that is well-lit and away from other traffic where cows can be quietly contained and handled.

2.Communicate clearly with your hoof trimmer regarding your expectations.

3.Expect your hoof trimmer to provide you with specific information as to what work he has done.

Following these steps will not only improve animal health but, more importantly, will reduce your stress in operating your dairy business. PD

john esplin

John Esplin
Esplin Dairy Hooftrimming

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