Hoof trimming is a very important part of rearing sheep. Hoof trimming sheep requires precision and extra care in performing the task and just like humans need to trim their nails when necessary, sheep also need hoof trimming to ensure easy movement from one place to another. It also prevents diseases such as foot rot. There are steps and precautions to be taken to have a successful hoof trimming process. Also, I would suggest you check out our Raising sheep starter guide for a more thorough general information article.
How Often Do You Need To Trim The Hoof?
How often you trim hoof in your sheep depends on various factors. You have to pay attention to the weather conditions your sheep or flock live in, the kind of food they eat, the terrain of their environment, and so on.
In areas where it rains or snows frequently, the soft terrain allows for the more rapid growth of the hoof, thereby requiring frequent trimming compared to areas of hard, or rocky terrain which wear the hoof with the sheep’s/flock’s movement. If your flock grazes on green pasture or nutritious grains, they need more occasional trimming than flocks that feed on dried hay due to rapid growth The easiest way to figure out when to trim would be to monitor the movement of the sheep; how easy or how difficult it is for them to move around.
Tips Before Getting Started
Trimming the hooves of your flock could be one of the most tasking aspects of rearing sheep. You should know that it could also be stressful for you and your critter and so it is advisable to also carry out other operations at the same time such as vaccination, shearing, and any other maintenance activity.
The pocket of the hoof could accumulate dirt and bacterial organisms causing infections or diseases such as foot rot. This pocket has to be cleaned properly first before trimming the hooves so that you can see what you are doing better.
Ensure not to trim too much at a time to avoid cutting into the foot’s blood supply. The hooves should be trimmed flat on the underside for the comfort of the sheep’s movement. The hooves should be trimmed in bits until you get to a white surface or a black one, depending on the color of the sheep’s hooves.
To know what a hoof should look like when you are trimming, you should check out the hoof of a newborn lamb. You should also know that it would be easier to trim your sheep’s hooves either after it rains or snowfall.
Restraining Your Critter
There are different ways you can restrain your critter. It is important to not restrain the sheep by the neck which can cause trouble leading to suffocation.
- The sheep can be restrained during trimming by making it lean on a wall standing on its other three legs while you trim the hoof of the limb that isn’t against the wall. The limb of the hoof being trimmed is bent backward in a natural fashion to the sheep’s comfort and this is also done for the other hoof leaning against the wall repeating the process while making the sheep face the opposite direction.
- The sheep can also be made to lie on their side for easy access to the hooves, and this also reduces stress for the sheep. Note that when the sheep starts to struggle, it should be left alone for a while to relax and cool off to reduce stress on the sheep. They can also be placed on their backs for hoof trimming. You have to be careful not to stress the animal while trimming because when you stress them, it could result in low productivity costing you money as a farmer.
For restraining your critter, you could use a Weaver Leather Livestock Sheep and Goat Training Halter. This halter would restrain your sheep quite perfectly as long as you get the right size. Getting the wrong halter size is just like putting a grown man’s belt on a two-year-old or vice versa as the case may be.
This halter also makes it easy to restrain your critter and reduces the stress on the critter and you also. You don’t have to body your sheep anymore with this halter, just belt them up and settle in for a pedicure service.
It comes with Dees, plated with nickel at the top of the noseband and on the two sides of the band for decent points of attachment. It also serves as a training belt for angling your sheep’s head right (nobody wants a sheep with a bad posture, I would most certainly want my sheep to have a nice posture, what can I say? Nothing beats having a healthy-looking sheep either as a pet or for dinner, whichever way you like it. This halter proves to be highly durable as a result of the nylon material it is made of.
Suggested Hoof Trimming Sheep Tools
There is various hoof trimming equipment and they can be used according to your preferences. We have manual hand shears, electric trimmers ( for a large number of sheep), a Deck chair, hoof trimming chute, proper and a safe gating system, hoof trimming knife, disinfectant, and so on.
Zenport-Q91-Zen-Magic-Trimming-Twin-Blade makes the job easy, just like a pair of scissors cutting through a piece of paper. Easy and quick. They are extremely sharp which makes the job get done faster.
These blades are easy on the hands, meaning you don’t have to worry about calluses after the whole operation. They have springs in them that make them open up easily for faster cut rounds and the blades do not jam locked.
This trimming shear twin-blade locks after use for the safety of the user and sheep. Using these trimming shears proves to make your work faster and less stressful, you don’t always have to be stressed out to have a beautiful outcome.
Hoof Health and Nutrition
It is important to regularly inspect the hooves of your flock. Regular inspection reduces the risk of the accumulation of dirt, pathogens, and manure which harbor bacterial organisms that could cause diseases.
It is also advisable to give your sheep supplements to support their nutrient intake and the TruCare Top-Dress Trace Mineral Multiple Species is a good example of supplements you can provide your sheep with. It contains Zinc and Manganese and also helps in terms of productivity, immunity and it also serves as a beauty kit for your sheep’s skin glow.
Health is wealth, and providing your sheep with supplements that would keep them healthy is a very good call. The Trucare Z/M Top-dress Trace Mineral Blend for Multiple species is apt for the job. It keeps your animals strong and healthy with just the right amount of trace minerals. These trace minerals could be zinc, manganese, cobalt, or whatever minerals are required by your sheep at any time.
The Tru-care Z/M Top-dress Trace Mineral Blend For Multiple Species helps to aid digestion in your critter and improves reproductive performances. This product is made from organic materials, and giving your sheep organic materials helps your sheep stay healthy and productive.
It can be administered to any sheep of any age. Trucare Z/M Top-dress Trace Mineral Blend For Multiple Species doesn’t discriminate against certain age groups, which makes shopping for it much easier and less time-consuming.
Trimming Question and Suggestions
What If The Hoof Is Overgrown?
Overgrown hoof makes walking difficult and painful for the sheep to walk, and lack of use of the limbs could cause arthritis, joint, or tendon problems. Overgrown hooves also make it difficult for them to compete for food.
In male sheep, the overgrown hoof deters them from mating because they stand on their hind legs to mate, and this, in turn, affects the productivity of the farm
What If You draw Blood While Trimming?
If you draw blood while trimming, you could deep the hoof in cornflour to stop bleeding and put a bandage on it to keep it from being infected. Remember to remove the bandage after 2-3 days, and always make sure that the bandage is dry.
What To Do If The Hoof Is Uneven
We’ve talked at length about the consequences of depriving a sheep of its well-deserved manicures and pedicures as well as what happens when they are overlooked.
How Exactly Do We Make These Hoofs Even?
First, here’s the imagery of how the hoof looks when it’s uneven. It has been observed that the hoofs grow in different directions when overgrown. The first direction it moves in is to curve forward then over what is to be the toes. The other direction may be towards and over the heels. Quite graphic and even more so when the sheep tries to walk in this state.
What needs to be done, however, is to give it an old-fashioned trimming. The first process requires you to ever so softly reach for the sheep’s limbs, one at a time. The second is to clean the middle of the hoof as properly as possible to get rid of dirt clogging the open spaces. This is a vital part of the steps as it helps prevent Footrot/ Hoof rot.
The third process is to clip the outer hoof wall, which as described earlier can grow out and curve inward towards the front. The extension from the back is not left out as it grows out from the heel causing an uneven platform for walking. Tell me about shoes with uneven soles. It sure is a pain to the soul. (Pun intended)
A fourth process would be to observe the sheep walk after the clipping. This will help in identifying any flaws in the trimming process and aid in correcting them.
Common Hoof Problems
Some hoof problems could be contagious while others are not. We have:
This is a very contagious and very common disease that causes lameness in sheep.
Is a bacterial infection that also affects sheep hooves.
This is a viral disease that isn’t contagious but is spread by biting insects. A red band around the top of the hoof is a sign of the disease.
Cuts and wounds
Farmers have to check the wound properly before signing it off as a simple cut. The cut should be treated properly to prevent infection.
This usually affects the front hoof. Other diseases are Foot and mouth disease, Sore mouth, Laminitis, Granuloma, and Gland infection.
Hoof Rot (Footrot)
Remember when Foot Rot was mentioned earlier as part of the series of unfortunate events to occur due to overgrown hooves? Let’s take a deeper look at what it entails. Foot Rot is a bacterial infection that affects both sheep and goats. The bacteria responsible for the formation of the Foot Rot is known as Dichelobacter nodosus.
This presence of this spoilsport is noticed through its stink. Residents affected by foot rot have been observed to have it in multiple feet or hooves in this case. It can also be identified by noticeable inflammation underneath the soles, which could either be black or red. It has also been observed to be rampant during wet seasons and can be transferred from one member of the flock to another.
Veterinarians would suggest a whole pen be cleared of its tenants in a bid to avoid reinfection. Treatment measures include the application of an antibiotic (tetracycline- a common treatment) trimming of hooves and a foot bath.
When Should I Trim My Lamb’s Feet?
As mentioned before, it takes 6-10 weeks for a sheep’s hoof to be overgrown. Considering this information, your lamb’s feet should be trimmed appropriately. It is also important to monitor the sheep closely. Checking for any sign of inactivity which is a sign of overgrown hoof
What Causes Overgrown Hooves In Sheep?
The major cause of a sheep’s overgrown hoof is simply nature. The soles are dominantly made up of Keratin. The same material that makes up a rhino’s horn and a man’s fingernail. It also grows the same way too, like every part of the body. A sheep’s overgrown hooves are like a man’s poorly manicured fingers. Check out the suggested hoof trimming equipment above.
Sheep Hoof vs Goat Hoof
Sheep and goats have quite a lot in common. Only goats are known to be stubborn and more active than sheep. The goat hooves are also thicker and grow more slowly compared to the sheep. So the goat hooves are not trimmed as often as the sheep. Remember, treat your critter like you would yourself. They also respond positively to good loving, pampering, and care. Trim their hooves and bond with them over a relaxing pedicure routine.