Feb. 17 2023 08:00 AM

Maintaining hoof health is a continuous goal on our dairy, and regular trimming helps us achieve this.

While I can appreciate having my toenails painted, it’s a rare occasion these days — especially in the winter months when my bare feet are never exposed. Just like some people got manicures and pedicures the past few weeks to be festive for Valentine’s Day, some of our cows were also taking part in the spa-like experience.

There are no pretty polishes involved, but the corrective work done during a hoof trimming is so important for a dairy operation. Hoof trimming tends to fall to the bottom of our to-do list just because of the lack of time we can devote to it, but that doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate the importance of keeping up with hoof health. Maintaining optimal hoof health is a constant goal of ours that we continue striving to improve.

One thing I always heard as a 4-H and FFA member doing dairy judging contests growing up was how important correctly structured feet and legs with smooth movement are in a dairy cow. If a young heifer has poor feet or legs, her productive life might be cut short due to poor mobility. That’s why we breed for quality feet and legs and offer plenty of chances for our young stock to go out onto pasture and run around. We also have our dry cows in an area with plenty of pasture access, giving all the milk cows a few months each year to move around on a softer surface and wear down their hooves a bit in a natural way.

For our most recent day of hoof trimming, we invited a past employee to do most of the heavy lifting when it came to trimming itself. My brother and I assisted by sorting the cows we wanted to work on, getting them moved in and out of the chute, and so on. We were able to work on about 20 cows that afternoon, and we already have a list going of the next set of cows we want to trim when we schedule another day for hoof trimming.

Please let this post serve as a reminder to check on your own herd’s hoof health. If you don’t have cows, I give you full permission to pamper yourself with a much-needed pedicure.

Molly Ihde (Schmitt)

The author dairy farms with her parents and brother near Hawkeye, Iowa. The family milks approximately 300 head of grade Holstein cows at Windsor Valley Dairy LLC — split half and half between a double-eight parallel milking parlor and four robotic milking units. In the spring of 2020, Molly decided to take a leap and fully embrace her love for the industry by returning full time to her family’s dairy.