It’s important to keep goat hooves regularly trimmed. Poorly trimmed hooves cause improper alignment and when it’s wet, overgrown hooves can cause goats to slip or lose balance. Additionally in cold weather, dirt and stones can collect and freeze in between the goat’s toes.
However, trimming goat hooves is an acquired skill and can take a bit of practice to learn. The section below describes the equipment needed and the process used to properly trim goat hooves.
How To Trim Goat Hooves:
Thin-bladed hoof shears seem to work the best. We like the “orange-handled trimmers” that can be purchased from caprine supply dealers such as Premier 1 supply. Thin-bladed garden trimmers also sometimes work, but thick-bladed or curved shears don’t work well.
A hoof pick and rasp (or carpenter plane) are nice to have available for the job too (although not absolutely required). There are also electric hoof trimmers available that look something like a Dremel and basically sand the hoof down rather than trimming it off.
Finally, it’s a good idea to have Blood Stop powder on hand to stop any bleeding that may occur. For a more complete list of equipment needed for keeping goats, see Goat Starter List.
How Often to Trim Goat Hooves
Goat hooves should be checked at least monthly to see if they need trimming, and if not, weekly thereafter. Goats that are being groomed for a show typically need their hooves trimmed at least that frequently. Pastured goats living on rocky terrain may never need their hooves trimmed – it all depends on the situation.
Front hooves tend to wear away faster naturally, so always check the goat’s back hooves to determine if it’s time for a trim. The illustration below shows an overgrown hoof that needs trimming badly.
Securing The Goat Prior To Trimming
As babies, it’s often easiest to simply trim the goat’s hooves while they sit in your lap. Just be careful to bend the little legs naturally while trimming. After they get larger, it’s best to secure the goat to a fence or trim them on a stand. Because they move around so much even when secured, the goat needs to be held firmly so you can concentrate on trimming. You might need a second person to help you with trimming when working with a bigger, stronger goat.
As the hooves grow, they start to turn under on the sides and grow out in front and eventually start looking like little elf shoes (see below). The correct angle to trim the hooves is parallel with the growth lines that circle around the hoof. These lines are parallel to the hair at the top of the hoof. The illustration below shows the correct trimming angle parallel to the growth lines and hair at the top of the hoof.
To trim a hoof, remove any dirt or debris from the bottom of the hoof and between the toes with the hoof pick or the point of the hoof shears. Trim off the overgrown sides and toe (the front edge of the hoof) down to the white sole, and trim the heel only down to level with the growth ring the toe finished on (the toe and heel should be at the same level – see illustration below).
Don’t trim past the hoof starting to turn pink or it’ll start bleeding. If it does start bleeding, apply Blood Stop powder and pressure to the area that’s bleeding until the bleeding stops. It’s better to trim a little over a period of time rather than trim too much and cause bleeding or lameness. It may take a number of trimmings to get the goat’s hooves into good shape.
The final illustration below shows the wrong angle for trimming the hoof. Since the toes of the hoof tend to grow faster than the heel, beginners tend to remove too much heel and not enough toe. This changes the angle of the hoof and causes incorrect alignment. It causes the goat to walk “down” on its pasterns and places excess pressure on them.
To see actual hoof trimming in action, there is a video from the Ohio State UniversityExtension that shows “how-to” care for goat hooves (see this LINK).