Pretty Toes

No matter what type of farm a cow lives on they spend a lot of time on their feet. Standing up eating, walking to the milking parlor, waiting to be milked and socializing all require a cow to be standing and walking around. Cows also are not small animals by any means. Even on the smaller end they still weigh over 900 pounds. That’s a lot of weight to carry around. All of this means it’s of great importance to keep their feet healthy and in good shape.

Lame cows have a hard time walking. We do every thing we can to prevent cows from having sore feet. The one of two ways we do this is by running a foot bath 1-2 times a week. A foot bath is long, shallow tub the cows walk thru to submerge their feet. At our farm they walk thru a mixture of copper sulfate, salt and water. This helps to keep their feet free of digital dermatitis, other wise known as hairy heel warts.

A cow walking thru a foot bath. Photo from

A cow walking thru a copper sulfate foot bath. Photo from

What on earth is a hairy heel wart you may be asking. My personal opinion is they look gross and sore. This is why prevention is key with them. So on top of being sore, gross and nasty they are contagious. This is why we make everyone go thru the foot bath.

Nasty little warts. Prevention is key! Photo is from

Nasty little warts. Prevention is key! Photo is from

The second thing we do for hoof care is routinely schedule a hoof trimmer. We trim hooves about every 6 weeks. Frequency varies from farm to farm and depends on the size of the herd and the condition of their cows feet. When we trim the hoof trimmer trims 15-20 cows. Most of these cows are getting ready to go on their dry period, 2 months of vacation before they calve. At this time we’ll also trim cows who have sore feet or cows who’s toes have grown to long. When hooves are to long a cow becomes much more prone to lameness (sore feet).

A cow is a large animal to handle and most are none to willing to volunteer their toes to be trimmed. The girls are put in a chute, very similar to a squeeze chute. They have straps placed around their bellies to hold them and make them feel secure. Each foot is also strapped so they are unable to kick while being trimmed. This could lead to injury to them and/or the hoof trimmer.


trimmed hooves

As you can see from the photo there is a big difference between an untrimmed and a trimmed hoof. Trimming is good prevention for injuries to toes and to fix any problems a cow may be having with her toes. If something is wrong with the hoof it can easily be corrected while they are in the chute being trimmed. After the problem is addressed a bandage and salve is placed on the foot. It’s left on for about 3 days then we remove it.

wrapThe health and soundness of a cows hooves are vital to keep her as a productive member of the herd. Regular maintenance from hoof trimming and a foot bath are essential to keep her on her toes. Sound feet make a happy cow!

** If you have any questions about the dairy industry feel free to leave them in the comments and I will answer them as quickly as I can. For the month of June my blog will solely be about the ladies and dairy related recipes!**


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