How to Trim Goat Hooves

There are a lot of skills that go into raising healthy goats. Learning how to trim goat hooves happens to be one of those necessary skills. The best part is that once you know what to do, it isn’t that difficult. You should inspect and maintain goat hooves regularly, every 4 – 6 weeks. However, a lot depends on the breed, goat age, and types of surfaces the goat walks on.

Below are the necessary steps and reasons you need to learn how to trim goat hooves. It’s very likely that when you thought about raising goats for milk, meat, or even as pets, you didn’t think that hoof trimming would one day be on your to-do list. However, it is an incredibly important skill to master for goat owners across the globe. 

How to Trim Goat Hooves

Even though there are other forms of goat foot care, frequent trimming of overgrown hooves is one of the best ways to ensure that your goats are free of conditions such as:

  • Lameness
  • Smelly hooves
  • Soft hooves
  • Hoof rot

One of the first lines of defense is frequently checking the animal’s feet. As soon as you notice any overgrown hooves, you should trim them. There are specific goat hoof trimmers or hoof shears available that can make this entire process much easier. However, because goat hooves are made of keratin, just like human fingernails, trimming them should be simple.

Here are some simple steps you can follow to effectively ensure your goats have healthy hooves.

Step 1: Gather the Tools

As is the case with any job needing doing, you must gather all the necessary tools before getting started. When it comes to trimming goat hooves, here are some of the most important tools you’ll need:

  • A hoof pick or a hard brush
  • Hoof clippers or goat hoof trimmers
  • Hoof knife
  • A file
  • An extra set of hands (a friend) to hold the goat in place

Even though clippers get the job done, they tend to be tedious and rough. A good alternative would be sharp shears, secateurs, or pruning shears. You could even use a handheld electric angle grinder once you are experienced.

Step 2: Bring the Goat to Where You Will Trim

This is often easier said than done. If you have your goats in an enclosure, then it’s very simple. However, you might need a minute or two to catch the goat in question if they are out to pasture. One of the best approaches is luring them with salt licks or roughage. You could wait for them at the feeding stations or watering holes.

Note: Trimming goat hooves in the morning while the goats are still in the barn may make things easier. Also, planning to trim their hooves after it rains can be helpful. You will often find that the hooves are slightly softer and much easier to cut.

Step 3: Hold the Goat in Place

As you will be using sharp tools, it’s important to have the goat secured and restrained in place before introducing the shears. There are several ways to go about this, but the two most effective include:

  • Tethering the goat to a handling area
  • Having a friend or farm hand hold the goat in place

If you are going to have a friend hold the goat in place, make sure they do it by the horns. It’s often easier if the goats are friendly and used to human interaction. They won’t be too skittish when you start working on each goat hoof. 

Step 4: Assess the Goat Hoof and Clean the Hooves

Before you get trimming, you need to take a good look at the goat’s hoof. Start with the hooves in the front and then do the ones in the back. Gently grab hold of each leg below the knee and bend it towards your line of sight. There may be a hard dirt layer. Once you have a good idea of how bad the situation is, use a brush or hoof pick to clean off any dirt or debris on the hoof’s surface. This will make the hoof fully exposed and helps you locate where to trim.

Once that is done, take a pick or a hoof knife and use it to pry the hoof walls apart to see what’s going on underneath the surface. This also makes the hoof walls much easier to trim.

Step 5: Trim the Walls

It’s more practical to start the actual trimming process by targeting the walls. This is mostly because this part of the hoof is pliable and tends to fold over and cover the bottom of the hoof. Trimming these first gives you a better idea of what’s happening underneath. The hoof wall is what tends to be overgrown on goats.

Step 6: Scrape the Walls and Soles

Once you are done trimming the walls, it’s time to bring out the hoof knife. Use this to scrape away at any remaining bits of hoof wall that the clippers couldn’t get at. You can also use the hoof knife to scrape away the sole of the hoof.

You should also trim each of the hooves so they are level and flat on the bottom. When doing so, keep a keen eye on the progress. The idea is to get a clean, white, and light pinkish result. If you go any deeper than this, you might cause bleeding.

Step 7: Focus on the Toes

Some goat breeds tend to have excessive toes. Mountain-dwelling goats, such as Alpine goats, Saanen, and Boer goats, are particularly prone to growing excess toes. If raising any of them, it’s imperative to focus on the toes as part of the trimming process.

You can use your clippers to cut off any long toe pieces you find. However, if there aren’t any long pieces, simply use your hoof knife to scrape at them or cut off the little you find.

Step 8: File to Finish

Once the clippers have done all the heavy lifting, it’s time to put a fine finish on things. Take the time to assess the goat hooves again to ensure you have done a satisfactory job. Check the walls, the toes, and the sole for any lingering keratin that needs to be cut. Finally, use a file to put a fine finish to the entire process. The idea is to have a well-trimmed and filed-down hoof on every foot.

trimming goat hooves
trimming goat hooves

Why Is Goat Hoof Care Important?

Even though it might seem unnecessary, goat hoof care is essential to raising healthy goats. There are several reasons why you need to tame hoof growth in goats as well as in sheep:

Walking Difficulty

Overgrown hooves make it difficult for your goat to walk. In many cases, these hooves will be overgrown unevenly, which causes both balance and gait issues in goats.

Risk of Disease

Overgrown hooves put the goat at risk of diseases such as foot rot which can cause lameness in a goat. Even worse, foot rot is contagious once it gets going and can affect even the goats in the herd that don’t have overgrown hooves. These factors can make some goats more susceptible to foot rot than others:

  • Genetics – Goat foot shape and foot structure
  • Environmental conditions – Foot rot is prevalent in consistently moist, wet areas
  • Nutrition 
  • Goat age – Younger goats are more susceptible to foot rot than older goats.

Foot scald is also a concern with goats.

Weight Loss

The animal with an overgrown hoof will find it painful to walk, and, as such, it will be difficult to compete for feed. Whether raising it for milk or meat, not eating will cause the goat to lose weight. This will directly affect the rate at which the goat can reach market weight for meat goats and milk production for dairy goats such as Nubian goats.

Other than weight loss and reduced goat milk production due to lack of eating, dairy goats will find it painful to stand on the milk stand, which will make milking them an absolute chore.

Negatively Affect Breeding

Bucks tend to use their hind legs when mounting does. This will become increasingly difficult to do if their hooves are overgrown. An animal with an overgrown goat hoof will feel discouraged and uninterested in moving, let alone mating.

Finally, goats that experience overgrown hooves or any hoof infection might also experience other types of infections or health issues such as arthritis or problems with their tendons and joints. This will eventually negatively affect their health, socialization, and productivity.

As you can see, there’s more to overgrown goat hoof care than just simple vanity. Proper hoof trimming directly ties into the animal’s overall health.

goat hooves
Goat hooves

Tips for Trimming Goat Hooves

With regular trimming, any one of your goats will have a healthy hoof free of injury and disease. This process might be slightly tedious, especially if you have many goats on your farm, but it’s worth the effort.

If you find that the goat’s hooves are tougher than you would like, you can make them go through a foot bath several times before trimming the hooves. This will make the keratin softer and give you a much easier time trimming. 

The good news is, keeping up with goat hoof maintenance makes it easier to do. This will prevent overgrown goat hooves.