Trimming Goat Hooves: When is the Right Time?

No matter the animal, trimming nails (or hooves) is the absolute worst. Despite the inconvenience of it all, it is very important to trim the hooves of a goat to improve its well-being. When is it appropriate to trim goat hooves?

The best time to trim goat hooves is when the hooves appear like they are curling (outward or inward) and look like they have “elf toes.” This will take 2–4 weeks on average. The specific time for their hooves to be cut depends on the breed, diet, exercise, and living conditions of the animal.

We will be going deeper into the art of goat hoof cutting by going more in-depth on when to cut their hooves. Following this, we will talk about why we do it, things to know before you start the process, and how to cut your goat’s hooves appropriately to improve the animal’s well-being. Source

When To Trim Goat Hooves:

As listed above, check for the “elf toes,” or if the hooves curl in any way. This is the best indication that goat’s hooves need to be trimmed. Unfortunately, there is not a specific way to trim goat hooves. If you are a first-time owner of adult goats, check your goat’s hooves very frequently. It is best to check at least every other week.

Try to notice any specific patterns with when your goat’s hooves need to be cut and cut the hooves during a scheduled period of time. For example, if your goat usually needs its hooves cut every other week, plan on cutting your goat’s hooves every other week. Your goat’s hooves will usually grow at a constant rate once they are checked on consistently. Source

Why Do You Trim Goat Hooves

It is important to take care of goat hooves for the overall health and wellness of the goat. Here are some specific reasons as to why hooves need to be cut:

  • If goat hooves are not properly handled, hoof rot can set in the goat’s hooves. Once hoof rot is set in, it spreads through bacteria in the soil to the rest of the goats in the herd. The more you check-in on your goat’s hooves, the better. Source
  • Trim goats hooves prevent extra growth from going under the roof (such as mud, bacteria, stone, and feed). This will ease the discomfort of the goat and make the animal more useful. Source
  • Trimming goat hooves also improves the eye, teeth, joints, and coat condition of the animal and helps you easily spot irregularities of the goat as you trim it (before it spreads to the rest of the herd). Source

Things To Know About Trimming Goat Hooves

  • Goats simply do not like their hooves to be cut. It makes sense-you are forcing them to balance on three of their four feet for several minutes. Be sure to treat them gently and do everything you can to make it a good experience for them. Be patient, and it will all work out for the best.
  • Baby goats do not need to trim their hooves until they are about 5 months old. Even at that point, babies may not even need their hooves trimmed. Check the goat’s hooves for the “elf toes,” then go from there. Source
  • The more you check your goat’s hooves, the better. It is much easier to trim shorter hooves than avoiding it and having to deal with very thick, aggravating hooves later. Source
  • If there are any cracks or separation within the hoof, stop cutting the hoofs and check the hoofs with a professional before continuing the process.
  • If your goat’s hooves look like they are extremely overgrown, use a handheld grinder and cut them in that way. If you are not experienced with a grinder or trimming goat’s hooves in general, it is best to find a professional to cut them. Source
  • Notice how your goat smells before you start trimming it. Unusual smells are a symptom of disease or infection in the goat, and your animal will need to see a professional.
  • If at any point your goat’s hooves start oozing, stop the trimming immediately and see a professional. Source
  • The best weather conditions to trim goat’s hooves is immediately after rainfall or heavy dews as the hooves are easier to trim that way. Source
  • It is best to trim all your goat’s hooves in the herd in a single day instead of spreading it out.
  • Many trimmers find it’s easier to take/find a picture of a kid’s hooves as an example of how the hooves should look after they are cut. Source

How To Trim Goat Hooves

What You Need:

  • Hoof Trimmers
  • Milking Station
  • Blood Stop Powder
  • Wet Rag
  1. Secure The Goat On The Milking Stand: Since goats are not fond of having their hooves trimmed, it is best to place them on a milking station so you can avoid too much resistance. Place the goat’s favorite grain in the bucket of the milking stand to preoccupy the goat’s mind. Most goat owners use sweet feed because it is considered a treat for goats (since they don’t get it too often). Be sure to use any type of grain that will capture their attention for the entire trimming process.
  2. Let Them Pitch A Fit: Personally be in a position where you can easily cut the goat’s nails. Bend the goat’s knees back and fold them in so you can easily cut the hooves.
  3. Start At The Front And Work Around: Most goat owners start at the front hooves then go to the back. However, the most important part is that you start and end cutting your goat’s hooves in the same spot every time you trim your goat’s hooves.
  4. Position For The Back Hooves: As you are cutting the back hooves, be sure to sit directly behind the goat instead of sitting beside it. This makes it easier for you and the goats won’t notice it as much.
  5. Clean The Hooves: First, use the brush to brush off the dust of the goat’s hooves. After you do this, use a rag to get off the excess dirt in the hooves.
  6. Start Trimming the Hooves, Slowly: Following this, start cutting your goat’s hooves in the same rhythm that you picked in Step 3. It is very important to cut your goat’s hooves as slowly as possible. Make gradual strokes with the trimmers so you don’t interfere with the goat’s hooves instead of trying to cut it all off at once. You can start trimming anywhere, just make a special effort to trim as evenly as possible.
  7. Avoid The Quick: The quick is the center of the goat’s hooves where the blood flow occurs. It is very important to avoid the quick as your goat will start bleeding, which will startle you and the goat. If you accidentally clip in the quick, don’t worry. Use the blood stop powder and you will be good to go. If there is only a slight cut, liquid bandages will work as well.
  8. Observe The Goat After The Trimming: Watch your goat following the trimming process, especially if you accidentally cut the quick. If the goat is limping for a couple of hours, apply more blood stop powder, and keep a close eye on the goat just in case. If the goat is still limping days later, check the hooves as there could be signs of infection on the goat’s hooves and quick. If you notice an infection, call a professional immediately. If the goat can not walk at all, you will need to retrim your goat’s hooves because they were not done evenly.

The method that is used above is the most effective way to trim goat’s hooves. However, if you would like a temporary solution to trim their nails in case there is too much on your plate, here are some other options you can use the prolong the time in between cutting times. However, it is best to cut their hooves formally (if these are used in between) every 6-8 weeks.

  1. Cinder Blocks- Stack five to six cinder blocks in a pyramid-style formation near the herd of goats. Since goats love to climb, they will go back and forth on these cinder blocks. Because of the tough material of the blocks, their hooves will be trimmed as the goats go up and down the cinder blocks.
  2. Pruning Sheers- Goat trimmers aren’t awfully expensive (they usually go for around $15-50), but if you are on a very tight budget, pruning sheers will work as a temporary solution as well. Be sure to use a little extra caution as you are trimming your hooves as pruning sheers are slightly more powerful than goat hoof cutters.


Dealing With An Unruly Goat

If you are dealing with a goat that will simply just not settle down or avoids getting its nails cut, there is a specific process to cut its nails.

  1. Find a friend to help you with controlling the animal
  2. Milking stands simply don’t work for these types of animals. You will need to either tie down the goat to the fence or pin the goat down on its side while you trim its nails. Most use the latter because the process is a little easier.
  3. Don’t trim the hooves completely and be sure that the hooves are as even as possible.

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