Hoof care in animals
They say Omaheke Region is a beautiful area except for the overgrown hoof problem in livestock. The region is often referred to as “Omaheke yetu omawa ngata otjina ozonyara movinamwinyo”.
This is indeed true. This sandy area has problems with overgrown hoofs. I was recently in our village just to see my favourite cow “Mauwaa” lame with overgrown hoofs. She was thin and restless and you could see how painful it was for her to walk. It almost broke my heart to see her like that.
Animals’ hooves grow all the time (just like our nails) but they are worn out by the ground.
In sandy areas, the hooves don’t wear down as fast as they grow and so they become too long. You will notice goats lame and or walking on their knees because of painful overgrown hoofs. If the animal is not able to get to the grazing area or the feeding trough it will be malnourished. Such animals are also at high risk of being devoured by predators if they can’t run.
Your heart will also bleed when you see overgrown hoofs in donkeys (or sometimes in horses).
They are a sorry site, I tell you. Just imagine yourself trying to pick up a needle with overgrown nails? It is almost impossible to do so. That’s exactly how animals with overgrown hoofs struggle with.
Another down of this condition is that there is an increased risk of foot rot and other infectious diseases if the nails are allowed to grow excessively long. Thus, it is the responsibility of every farmer especially in sandy areas to include hoof trimming as part of an annual management program. Or otherwise, animals need to be monitored on a regular basis to trim the ones that are growing long hoofs.
The goal of hoof trimming is to allow your animal to walk normally since it is difficult to walk with overgrown hooves. This procedure takes time and is physically stressful for both you and the animal. Thus, it’s very important that a comfortable position is established. For cattle, it is advisable to cast the animal down, while donkeys and horses can be trained to lift their feet. At times, in big animals such as bulls and stallions, it is advisable to rather call in a veterinarian to sedate the animal for easier hoof management. Sheep and goats are easier to handle and with the help of an assistant you can lift the foot.
There are specialised hoof knives and equipment for hoof trimming. Every farmer should invest in a good hoof trimmer (looks like a big strong scissors). But the most basic tool that you need is a very sharp knife, which works well in reaching those areas your trimmers can’t get to. You can also use the knife to flatten the sole and removing embedded rocks and thorns. A rasp is another tool needed and is used to flatten the bottom of the hoof after trimming. For large animals an electrical tool normally works faster and is more efficient. You also need a soft brush or a cloth to brush off the junk so you can see what you’re doing.
With every hoof management, you have to be careful not to cause bleeding, but in cases where you nick the hoof, you need a powder that helps to stop bleeding, an antiseptic soap as well as wound spray. For worse cases with excessive bleeding, farmers can apply Stockholm Tar onto the hoof.
Before you start trimming, it is better to first remove any dirt from the outside of the hoof and dig out dirt mud/gravel or stones from the bottom of the hoof. The first cut on a badly overgrown foot is to nip away the front of the nail. This makes it easier to cut the sides of the nails by opening a gap for you to fit the trimmers into. A good practice is to trim off a very thin slice with each stroke. Don’t go too deep too fast and stop when you see pink. Same thing goes for the rasp. Continue to trim the sides around one toe and then across the heel. Repeat the process on the other toe.
Animals with overgrown hoofs always struggle to eat, because of the suffering in walking and the pain it endure trying to walk properly. As a result we rarely see fat, healthy animals with overgrown hoofs. Now who want to see his animals in such sorry states? It also does not make economic sense to allow overgrown hoofs in your animals to remain unattended to.