DairySmid Dairy Hoof Trmming

The Vet & The Hoof Trimmer

The aim of this article is to highlight the importance of a good and sound relationship between the Veterinarian and the Hoof Trimmer, in support of the farmer.

In the ever changing world we live in, with the effect of the Fourth Industrial Revolution taking effect in the Dairy and Beef farming industry, the Farmer, needs all the support he can get, to stay in front of the curve, with all the available advice out there.  The following phrase is very appropriate. 

“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a lion or gazelle. When the sun comes up, you’d better be running. “ Passed on by Steve Grasso of Stuart Frankel~

The Farmer, business owner, needs to surround him with a specialised and competent team of advisors and specialists to guide and support him through this process, to guarantee, success on the other side.  This team should consists of the following:

  • The Farmer/Business Owner.  To ensure that his business is profitable.
  • The Herd Manager.  Responsible with his team for the day to day operational activities on the farm.
  • The Veterinarian.  Responsible for herd health and fertility.
  • The Nutritionist.  The nutritionist with the minerals nutritionist advisor, responsible for an effective feeding program.
  • The Pasture Advisor.   Responsible for the consultation on effective pasture management, what to plant, soil analysation, fertilizer, etc.
  • The Hoof Trimmer. Responsible for consultation on/and treatment of lameness.

An effective team with the members above, will guarantee success.

In this article however we are going to focus on the contribution of the Vet and the Hoof Trimmer, working together in consultation and supporting the farmer.


  • The goal of both the vet and hoof trimmer is to keep the animals sound. If that is to be done successfully both have to give sound scientifically based advice to the farmer on prevention and treatment strategies. If that advice is the same from both parties, the farmer is more likely to act on that advice. For example the trimmer notices that foot rot and digital dermatitis are bad on a particular farm, he would refer back to the vet for advice on sound hygiene and control strategies.
  • Routine trimming and balancing of feet at dry off, to prepare the cow for the next lactation.
  • If the vet does not have adequate equipment and facilities for quick and safe handling of the bovine, then conditions that require paring out of white line infections, sole / toe ulcers, sand cracks, abscesses and the application of foot-blocks and bandages where necessary.  This could be referred to the Hoof Trimmer.
  • The Hoof Trimmer however is not allowed to perform any surgical procedure.
  • The Hoof Trimmer is not allowed to make a medical diagnosis, however he would rather make a recommendation out of his experience and if necessary consult with the Vet.
  • The Hoof Trimmer is allowed to only work on dead hoof material, and around the infectious area.  With the appropriate treatment for the condition.  
DairySmid Dairy Hoof Trmming
Figure 1: The Chute
Figure 2: Roto Clip
Figure 3: Hoof Knife


  • If the vet does not have adequate equipment and facilities for quick and safe handling of the bovine, this can be referred to the Hoof Trimmer.
  • Procedures only a Vet may perform:
    • Arthrodesis caused by permanent damage to the claw.
    • Amputation of the claw.
    • Nerve Block to work on an abscess  for example


  • The Hoof Trimmer would consult with the Vet about the following:
    • Conditions that are contagious or have the potential to spread through the herd. For example digital dermatitis / strawberry foot rot.
    • Conditions that require antibiotic therapy.
    • Conditions that are a symptom of underlying nutritional or management problems. For example subclinical acidosis / laminitis.
    • Conditions that warrant intervention as far as animal welfare go. For example trauma as a result of poor walkway construction / maintenance and cattle handling techniques.
    • Conditions that may be notifiable diseases like foot and mouth.
    • Conditions that do not necessarily originate from the foot, like 3 day stiff sickness and other musculoskeletal conditions.
  • A well trained and competent Hoof Trimmer has the expertise to consult with the Vet and the farmer, to ensure that the farmer has the best, affordable service to firstly prevent lameness and where necessary treat lame cows.
  • Equipment.  The trimmer has a wide range of specially designed equipment, to perform his work.
    • The Chute.  See photo1.  This is a well-designed piece of equipment to immobilise the cow, by restraining the leg with a leg restraint, and the hoof for the trimmer to do his work.  This equipment is very safe and will cause no harm to the cow on condition it is operated in the correct manner. 
    • Roto Clip.  See Photo 2.  This is an essential pieces of equipment in a qualified trimmers hands to effectively cut away excess and treat hooves.
    • Hoof Knife.  See photo 3.  Special knife used to remove damaged horn for effective treatment.  This piece of equipment, sharpened is a valuable tool in the toolbox of a competent hoof trimmer.  We offer a free service to Vets whom work with us, to sharpen their hoof knifes.
  • Treatment.  The Hoof Trimmer will once the hoof has been examined determine the type of treatment necessary, ranging from cutting away the loose horn material on long claws, wrapping the hoof after treated, or fixing a block glued onto the health claw, to release pressure from the treated claw.  There are various conditions categorised in 2 conditions – Infectious and Non Infectious Diseases.   See the chart below.


The treatment of the hoof is a very important piece of the puzzle regarding the management of the cows and the business.  A lame cow is in the sense of the business a liability and not an asset.  Therefor money and time spent on this is never wasted.

Dr Andy Lund, Howick Vet Clinic, KZN, South Africa
Mr Jaco de Bruin, Hoof Trimmer, Consultant Dairy Smid

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