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Hoof trimmers trim for injured, beleaguered Iowa dairyman

PD Editor Walt Cooley Published on 07 December 2010

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Todd Grimes has been dairying for less than two years, but the 43-year-old former electrical lineman from Maryland, now an Iowa dairy producer, says he’s already learned that bad stuff happens in sets of three on his dairy.

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Like many, Grimes’ February 2009 milk check was a record low, squeezing his 60-cow dairy’s profitability. Then, later that summer, five confirmed pregnant cows died suddenly within a few weeks from complications due to heat stress. He couldn’t afford to replace them. Yet it was the year’s triple-play of misfortune that nearly took his life.

In February of this year, the pocket of Grimes’ sweatshirt got caught in his tractor’s PTO while grinding feed. The spinning flywheel entangled Grimes, ripping off the five layers of clothing he was wearing to protect him from the Iowa winter cold. He awoke about 30 minutes later, deeply bruised, bleeding and laying 30 feet from the still-spinning PTO.

“We know that God was with him that day and must have thrown him away from the machine,” Grimes’ wife, Janice, says of the incident.

About the time of Grimes’ accident, Eric Moyer was traveling to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to attend the Hoof Trimmers Association ’s annual conference. As outgoing association president, Moyer hoped to network with other trimmers and organize a charity trimming event. His initial goal was to find a large herd and trim it in a day with several other trimmers who would donate their time. The revenue from the trim would then be donated to a worthy cause.

( Click here to listen to Editor Walt Cooley discussing this article with Truffle Media and DairyCast)

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“In the dairy industry, hoof trimmers are often looked at as a guy who drives around and collects a big check,” Moyer says. “I wanted to give something back and portray hoof trimmers differently.”

Several trimmers at the conference said they would be willing to participate in Moyer’s charity trim. However, before Moyer could complete plans for his whole-herd charity trim, he learned of Grimes’ accident. The herd hadn’t been trimmed in months due to low milk prices, and the dairy’s vet was treating cows as needed.

“Unfortunately, this family had a few bad hoof trimmers throughout the years, and they had lost their faith in hoof trimmers,” Moyer says.

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Moyer called three other trimmers from Minnesota to meet him at the dairy on a Saturday in September for the charity trim. Moyer trimmed front hooves, trimmers Vic Larsen and Scott Hooper clipped rear hooves, and recently retired trimmer Lee Carlson moved cattle for the group through Moyer’s 2010 Tuffy-Tilt squeeze chute, a left-tilting trimming table. The trimmers started at 9 a.m. and were done with the 60-plus herd of dry and milking cows by 2 p.m.

“Considering the time between trimming and the heat stress this summer, we only found moderate problems,” Moyer says. “This family doesn’t come from a dairy background. I’ve noticed that anyone who started up a dairy from nothing is very particular with their cows and their facilities. This farm was an 8 in cow comfort.”

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The trimmers treated for hoof warts and applied a few blocks. All of the materials for the charity trim were paid for personally by Wendy Rahn, who works for Animart, based in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin.

At the end of the day, Grimes came out to the dairy’s hoop freestall barn to personally thank the trimmers.

“You could tell the trim was really heartfelt,” Moyer says. “The Grimes couldn’t believe the difference between when their cows walked into the chute and when they walked out. There wasn’t a lot of blood on the ground or materials used. It was a pretty simple day.”

Grimes says he was most impressed by how the trimmers treated his cows.

“Some of the trimmers who have come here before have spooked my cows,” Grimes says. “They’ve hollered and screamed at them. When these guys came, it was like night and day. They were so gentle and nice. They treated the cows like their own.”

The trimmers showed Grimes some tips for using his footbath treatments more effectively and how to identify and treat hoof warts earlier. He asked for them to come back to trim in the future. Grimes says he had never accepted charity for his dairy – until after the accident. “No one has ever done something for me like that,” Grimes says. “But it didn’t hurt having someone do something for me.”

Moyer, who trims about 15,000 cows per year on dairies in Ohio, New York and southern Illinois, estimates the value of the trimmers’ services for a day at about $800. Grimes says his dairy has also benefitted in a one-to- two-lb increase in milk production per cow and increased reproduction since the trim.

“When the dairy crisis hit, it was difficult to afford having feet trimmed,” Grimes says. “After the bandages came off, the cows were at the bunk eating more and walking around more. We really did appreciate them coming.” PD

Additional notes: The night of the accident, Grimes was back at the dairy and sat in the parlor while his stepson milked. Now months after recovery, Todd is able to do most of the chores he used to do. He says mixing feed is the most difficult task. Hearing the PTO running, he says, makes him sick to his stomach. The only days he questioned his decision to buy a dairy were in 2009. “The days I wish I never got into dairying were the days milk price was in the $9 range,” Grimes says. Janice Grimes frequently blogs about the couple’s dairy at www.windmillfarmdairy.blogspot.com

PHOTOS
TOP RIGHT: Hoof trimmers Lee Carlson, far left, Scott Hooper, Eric Moyer and Vic Larsen, far right, trimmed Iowa dairyman Todd Grimes’ 60-cow dairy for free in September.
TOP LEFT: Minnesota hoof trimmer Scott Hooper, center, describes his method for trimming rear hooves to trimmers Vic Larsen, forefront, and Lee Carlson, background, during a charity hoof trim in Iowa. Photos courtesy of Eric Moyer.

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