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How I work: A day in my life … Shane McCoy

Shane McCoy Published on 24 February 2014

My day starts at 3:30 a.m., feet on the floor and spending time with the Lord. Fueling up for a long day of trimming starts with a hearty breakfast. This morning’s meal consists of sausage, eggs, biscuits, blackberry jelly and a big cold glass of milk (more about the jelly later). I loaded my truck the night before so I am ready to tackle today’s work schedule.

By 4:30 a.m., I am on the road headed west to pick up my chute at a dairy where I had trimmed cows the previous day. It is still dark out upon my 6 a.m. arrival at Toombs Brothers Dairy, a progressive 100-cow dairy in Columbia, Tennessee. As I back into my chute and hop out to make the proper connections, I am greeted by the smiling face of Mr. William Toombs, inquiring as to how my evening was.

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I was happy to inform him that I had found a jar of blackberry jelly on the seat of my truck when I left his farm yesterday – just one of the many perks of being a hoof trimmer and working with good country folks. I told him that I had some for breakfast this morning and how truly good it was.

I get hooked up and head west an additional hour. At 7 a.m., I arrive at Mr. Ernie Jones’ dairy in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. Upon my arrival, they still have a few head yet to milk and sort. Mr. Jones then scrapes the area where I normally set up to trim, and I start unloading panels from my chute and configure them in my normal set-up for this farm.

I always try to configure my panels in such a way that I have a couple of cows behind my chute to help create a good cow flow. When my chute opens and I release the cow inside, I want her to draw the next cow in as she leaves the chute with as little assistance from me as possible.

Before moving cows to the chute, I look for a boss cow in the group – a cow that will push or butt other cows. If she is in the pen, then I want her to go into the chute with the first group of cows I work so the rest of the cows can relax.

When I work cattle, my goal is for them to be calm and comfortable throughout the entire process. If the cow in the chute is nervous or stressed, that passes to the next cow and so on, all the way back to the holding pen where the group of cows is waiting to be separated. They, too, become nervous about the excitement up ahead.

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A wiser man than me once said the fastest way to work cows is slow and easy. This philosophy has held true my entire life around cattle. For this reason, I use a hydraulic upright chute to provide cow comfort and a friendly environment for working with the animals.

Mr. Jones has a group of recently purchased cows for me to trim that are not up to his hoof protocol standards. Their new home on Mr. Jones’ farm will be a marked improvement in that regard, as I am generally on his farm every eight weeks.

When I get into a group of cows that have not been on a routine herd hoof maintenance program, it is like opening up an assorted box of chocolates. Every time I pick up a hoof, I may be presented with something completely different. This group of cows, I’m sure, will provide that kind of variety.

The first cow is in the chute at 8 a.m. As we progress through this group of cows, my prediction proves accurate. There is no lack of variety. I have addressed varying degrees of white-line abscesses, toe ulcers, sole ulcers, heel ulcers, digital dermatitis, hairy warts, screwed claws and overgrown toes.

When treating minor hoof insults, I strive to apply bandages in such a way that they remove themselves in two to three days. This is important because leaving the bandage on too long can cause the foot to swell, thus becoming an insult to the foot and triggering further problems.

For this reason, I remind farmers to remove the wraps if they are still on within three days of treatment. However, major insults may require a re-wrapping after the third day to provide treatment for a longer period of time.

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Insults such as digital dermatitis and heel warts often warrant a light wrap. Typically, I medicate the hoof with a copper sulfate treatment, apply gauze and then begin my wrap on the gauze, promptly applying light tension as I go between the claws and around the foot 1½ times.

Click here to download a PDF of McCoy demonstrating the technique he uses to apply a light wrap. In this case, the insult being treated is a hairy wart of moderate severity.

At 2:30 p.m., the last cow leaves the chute. As I look back on a group of cows, some with blocks and others with assorted colors of wraps on their hooves, I hope that each cow’s situation has improved and that she is a great deal more comfortable in the way she walks, thus making her more productive in the milk parlor and increasing the bottom line for the dairyman.

When it’s all said and done, if your cows are fed and bedded the best you can, and if they can travel on their hooves comfortably in the environment you have created for them in turn, they will produce to their potential for you.

By 3:30 p.m., my chute and panels are washed and loaded. The truck is ready to head home, but not until I give Mr. Jones a detailed, documented report that consists of each cow’s individual hoof health. The report identifies the problem, level of severity and how it was treated.

This is helpful in not only tracking how a cow is responding to treatment, but when looked at as a whole, it paints a picture of the herd’s overall hoof health status. We can look back at these reports to notice trends over time.

Mr. Jones and I take some time to go over the list of cows that have been worked today to cover any concerns. We then schedule our next appointment in 60 days, bid each other a good day, and I am on the road back home.

As I head toward home, I am looking for a place to grab a bite to eat. I make a list of items I have depleted from my inventory over the last few days and place a call to my sales representative to get my inventory re-stocked. I also make follow-up calls to check on cows that I worked five to six days previously. It means a great deal to me to know that all is well with these cows and that hoof health has improved after I leave those farms.

By 6 p.m., I arrive home. I clean all of my hand tools, sharpen knives and prepare for the next day. I will return emails that have come in during the day.

I see my role on the dairy as more than simply trimming hooves. It is also my job to explain what I am doing and educate the dairyman. I strive to be a team player and trusted consultant, and to keep the lines of communication open. It is very important to me that my clients are able to pick up the phone and have access to me so that we can create the best results for his or her operation.

God has blessed me in so many ways. One is to be able to work with cows and another to work for American dairy farmers, who are truly some of the finest folks God has put on this Earth. PD

Shane McCoy owns and operates Advantage Hoof Care. He is based out of Brush Creek, Tennessee, and covers a multi-state region.

shane mccoy

Shane McCoy
Advantage Hoof Care

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