Let’s Talk Bovine Pedis

cowhoof

Cow Hoof Anatomy

Did you know that cattle sometimes need a pedicure too?  Last week, at our cattlemen’s field day we had a hoof trimmer do a demonstration on a few beef cows.  If you have never seen a hoof trimmer in action, it is quite the site to see!

It all starts with understanding basic hoof anatomy.  Take a look at the photo above that shows the hoof at different angles with the correct anatomy.  The hoof has two toes (or claws) and they need to be even, so when one grows too long or at the wrong angle the cow can become lame (meaning she cannot walk normal).  If this issue goes on for a long period of time, the cow will end up not being able to walk and will need to be put down.  Good news is, we have hoof trimmers in the bovine world, just like in the equine world!  They stay busy trimming dairy cattle hooves more than beef cattle but the same rules apply as to why they are called out to trim hooves in the first place.

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Hoof trimmer working on a beef cow that was lame from a long toe.

In this photo you can see the long toe prior to the trim:

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Here is the after photo:

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One of the biggest issues with bovine hooves is called, “screw claw.”  Screw claw can be genetic or related to the environment.

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Drawing courtesy of Alabama Cooperative Extension Service

The photo to the left shows what a screw claw hoof looks like.  As you can imagine this issue causes pain and most of the time lameness if not trimmed.  You should consider culling cattle with screw claw and definitely avoid buying cattle who have screw claw.

Click here for an Extension publication that discusses proper hoof structure.

There are other hoof issues such as scissor toes and abscesses.  With any hoof issue, it is best to try and determine the cause of the problem.  Some problems are short term and others are long term and possibly heritable.  Click here for more information about structure and lameness in cattle.

 

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Photo Credit: ABBA

Here are a few more photos from the hoof trimming demonstration at the cattlemen’s field day last week:

Step 1: Load cow into special hoof trimming chute.

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Step 2: Tilt cow on its side so hooves can be trimmed.  Secure hooves to the side of the chute for safety of the cow and the trimmer.

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Step 3: Assess the hooves that need to be trimmed and start the trimming process.

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Step 4: Release the hoof straps prior to putting the cow down.

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Bottom line, pay attention to hooves!  If you are buying a bull or cow/heifer, look at their hoof and leg structure.  Avoid bad hooves and leg structure so you do not have problems down the road.  CULL- if you have females or bulls with bad hooves/leg structure!  Culling willing always save you in the long run.

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About Lauren Langley

Co-manager at 3B Cattle Company, Livestock Extension Agent at NCSU/Alamance County, NCSU Alumni
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