SHEEP Step1: As I’ve outlined before in the pages of Country Smallholding and in The Sheep Book for Smallholders, it’s important to learn the proper technique for turning sheep over. Getting it right means less stress for the animal and less strain on you.
Step: 2 Having turned the ewe over correctly, she’s now in the right position for me to check her feet and trim if necessary. With the sheep sitting on her left hip, I will trim the left hind foot first. Then I will transfer her weight to her right hip and do the right hind foot, before moving on to the front feet
Step 3: Use a proper pair of hoof shears, not a penknife, to remove any overgrown horn, and also to cut away any areas where the horn has separated from the hoof – if left untended, these separated areas will fill with soil and small stones, leading to lameness and, possibly, infection. Once the hoof becomes infected the problem simply escalates, and the lameness will become very severe indeed
Step 4: Neatly trimmed sheep’s feet should be left with a small rim of horn standing proud of the sole, which takes the animal’s weight. If you trim the outer horn down too short, the sole of the hoof (which is relatively soft) will become bruised on hard ground. In sheep, there’s no need to cut or rasp the sole of the hoof at all.
Step 5: A squirt of antiseptic spray completes the job. The trimming of goat’s feet is broadly similar to sheep, but with goats it’s generally carried out with the animal standing up, as you would with a horse or pony. Also, after cutting back the overgrown horn, a goat’s feet should be rasped to get the whole of the bottom of the hoof level.
CATTLE Step 1: Trimming a cow’s feet is a much greater undertaking, but thankfully they don’t need doing very often! In fact, suckler cows (particularly the native breeds) probably won’t ever need their hooves trimmed. Dairy cows are a different matter, particularly as their locomotion is affected by having to carry that vast udder, resulting in uneven wear to the feet. Cattle foot trimming is generally carried out by contractors, who have purpose built crushes that will restrain a cow safely and comfortably.
Step 2: This hydraulically operated crush tips over, gently lifting the cow (our Jersey house cow, in this case) and laying her carefully on her side. Once she’s over, her feet are securely restrained to prevent kicking. Now the contractor can get to work… Firstly he trims away any excess horn growth, using a large pair of pincers.
Step 3: Next he uses a very sharp, hooked knife to hollow the sole of the hoof slightly.
Step:4 Finally, the hoof is shaped and tidied up using an angle grinder with a special rasping disc designed for the job