What to Look for in a Hoof Trimmer

By John W. Anderson
Hoard's Dairyman, copied with permission.
Published: September 25, 2002

A dairyman called because he had seen one of my advertisements. He asked if I could take a look at his cows. He had a hoof trimmer in two months earlier who trimmed the whole herd (80 cows), and now about 25 of them were limping and acting real sore on their feet.

We first walked through the cows to see how they were standing and walking. There were no consistent problems. Some cows were lame in front and some in the back. We then looked at the trim sheet the trimmer had provided to see what he had found while trimming and the problems he had to fix. There were a few warts and only a couple of ulcers.

With the first cow on the table, I started seeing some of the problems. The trimmer had trimmed too close, and an abscess had formed. This was the main problem with most of the cows. I put on a few blocks and treated the abscesses.

With the price of cows, dairymen cannot afford to cut corners anywhere when it comes to cow health. It is important that we try and focus on all areas. One of the areas of importance is regular hoof trimming. Most cows should be trimmed at least twice a year.

The first thing you must do is select a hoof trimmer. There are many ways to do this, but one of the best is word of mouth. Talk to other farmers in your area to see who they use. Some hoof trimmers advertise; others show up at your door.

Choose a reputable trimmer. You do this in many ways; it's like selecting a new employee. Here are things I would ask for and check out:

A list of references in your area could be one of the most important things you ask for. Take the time to check out references.

Second, does the trimmer have liability and disability insurance? Very important. A client of mine was audited by workman's comp. I had to give them proof of my insurance, or the farmer would have been liable for paying workman's compensation on the money I earned trimming his cows' hooves. Insurance also is important if the hoof trimmer or one of your cows gets hurt.

Third, how long has the trimmer been trimming hooves? This is a reasonable question to ask in determining an experience level of the trimmer.

Fourth, where did he or she learn to trim? At this time, there is no certification required to become a hoof trimmer. However, there are many good hoof trimming schools around. Or there may be an apprenticeship with a qualified hoof trimmer. Either of these is acceptable.

Fifth, how many cows can he or she trim in an average day? This is important in determining which cows are trimmed first and how many days you will need to schedule for trimming.

Sixth, does he or she need help while trimming? Some hoof trimmers have assistants working them. If not, they may require someone helping to move cows. This could time up an employee all day.

Seventh, ask what he or she charges per cow for trimming, wraps, blocks, checks, or if there is a setup charge. You don't want to be surprised when you're given the bill. I've seen prices from $8 to $15 for a trim.

Eighth, what kind of equipment does he or she trim with? Most trimmers use electric grinders to trim feet with. However, there a few who use nothing but hand tools. Trim tables come in many shapes and sizes. They have standup chutes and tilt tables (tilts cows 90 degrees on her side). Both are acceptable as long as they are in good repair.

Ninth, if you have one cow that has a sore foot, would he or she return to take care of it? Some trimmers live a long ways from your area, and it wouldn't pay to travel that far for one cow. But, if they are in your area, they should take care of her. Some will charge a setup fee.

With biosecurity being very important these days, you should look at their equipment before you let them in your barn. If should be clean of all manure from another farm priori to entering your facility. All the hand tools and clothing should be clean as well. There might be some road dirt on the equipment, but there should not be any manure. You should make this clear when setting up an appointment.

Hopefully, you now are better equipped to find a good hoof trimmer. The feet on your cows are one of the most important parts of good cow health and comfort. Feet directly affect milk production and health problems in your herd. A good hoof trimmer will make you money, not cost you.