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Author Topic: Cracked Hooves  (Read 4552 times)


  • Joined Mar 2009
  • Stirlingshire, Central Scotland
Cracked Hooves
« on: October 05, 2015, 11:47:58 pm »
Folks, please help me get to the bottom of this - some of our sheeps' feet are cracking up, and it's driving me mad!!

The symptoms vary from developing pockets that fill with dirt (shelly hoof)

through to this poor lamb who has cracks right along and up the hoof wall.

I know at the time, people said that the first hoof had been over-trimmed (possibly, although not by me). However, the hoof in the second picture has never ever been trimmed, yet has well developed pockets and nail detatchment along with a horizontal crack right along the top of the hoof, just below the hair-line.

Also, we bought a four-shear ewe, who came to us with good feet and no history of foot problems, who again developed horizontal cracks within a couple of months of arriving here. It really looked as though the hoof she grew after arriving was weaker than the existing hoof, which caused it to crack and then get infected.

So what's going on?  Is it something in the water?  A mineral deficiency in our grass? (I've put out some zinc rockies, but the sheep don't seem to touch them). Something I'm doing?  Something I'm not? All ideas are welcome, as I really have no idea how to fix this, and neither does the vet I'm afraid :-\.
"All fungi are edible. Some fungi are only edible once." -Terry Pratchett


  • Joined Sep 2015
Re: Cracked Hooves
« Reply #1 on: October 06, 2015, 08:57:28 am »
Cant comment on the feet Womble, but I got some Zinc licks from Northern Nutrition this year for my herdys. They're without copper and the sheep love them! Worth a go maybe? Think they were about £25 for a 25kg bucket.


  • Joined Mar 2012
  • South Wales
Re: Cracked Hooves
« Reply #2 on: October 06, 2015, 10:03:20 am »
Shelly hoof on the first one yes, you will need to trim those ones right up to get rid of the loose horn, and then leave them to grow back properly.  Don't routinely trim.  Cull anything that repeatedly goes bad.  Are these all bought in sheep?  Have you footbathed them at all?  Have you checked for CODD?

You would benefit from getting your grass analysed, you could well be deficient of something.  Doesn't cost much, say £25, but at least then you will know what you are dealing with.


  • Joined Mar 2009
  • Stirlingshire, Central Scotland
Re: Cracked Hooves
« Reply #3 on: October 06, 2015, 06:11:21 pm »

Thanks Both,

I'm happy with the treatment for this, but having sheep with such crappy feet is leaving them open to secondary infections, which are of course much more serious.

I've never trimmed for anything other than shelly hoof, as you describe. I don't think it's CODD - it's more a physical cracking up, and any infections we've seen seem to come along later, having I think gained entry through the cracks. We have been foot-bathing in Goldenhoof+ every time we change fields, or if any of them get scald.

The adult sheep were bought in from different places, and some seem to have worse trouble than others. However, this year's lambs don't have great feet either (as per the second pic).

I'll get the grass and soil analysed and report back in due course.  In the meantime, I wonder if anybody else has had similar problems in the past, and if so, what did you do to solve them?
"All fungi are edible. Some fungi are only edible once." -Terry Pratchett

Marches Farmer

  • Joined Dec 2012
  • Herefordshire
Re: Cracked Hooves
« Reply #4 on: October 06, 2015, 06:43:14 pm »
Very wet summer plus a habit of standing on fence wire to get at leaves in the hedge?  Same ram used?  When we buy a new Southdown tup we go for striped horn - much thicker in that breed than black horn and less likely to get shelly hoof, although the horn on the bottom photo is beautifully striped, so maybe not on that breed.  Do your sheep regularly go on any ground that's mostly soil - near a gateway perhaps?  This will pack soil into any tiny pockets at the side of the hoof wall and a combination of soft horn and weight will cause it to progress upwards.  Occasionally a couple of ours get shelly hoof over a very wet winter but it's always grown out by the middle of the summer.  I agree it may be worth getting the soil analysed as the damage to the feet shown is consderable. Even if it is partly down to a mineral deficiency the hoof wall won't be sound for several months.


  • Joined Mar 2009
  • Stirlingshire, Central Scotland
Re: Cracked Hooves
« Reply #5 on: July 09, 2017, 12:44:40 am »
I know this is an old thread, but since other folks have linked to it, I feel it right to add some up to date information.

In the end, I do believe that our problems here were caused by our local conditions. For example, the second photo above was from a lamb, and was typical of all our lambs' feet that year (i.e. shocking!). Having a flock with feet like that meant that they got every infection going, and we were constantly fighting a losing battle.

Likewise, when we bought in older animals with perfectly good feet, within a few months, their hooves started to crack up along the line corresponding to the new growth that started when they moved to us.

After research, and talking to our vet, we put out Zinc Rich Rockies mineral salt lick blocks in every field (Protect them from rain, and they'll last a long time). Since then, our flock's hooves are much stronger, and we never have to do anything with lambs' feet except occasionally spray for scald.

So, I'm just leaving this here in case it's useful to others. If you try the zinc licks, please do report back so we can see if they have more universal applicability  :thumbsup: .
"All fungi are edible. Some fungi are only edible once." -Terry Pratchett


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