The Accidental Smallholder Forum

Livestock => Sheep => Topic started by: Hillview Farm on July 30, 2013, 05:25:29 pm

Title: Thoughts on foot trimming?
Post by: Hillview Farm on July 30, 2013, 05:25:29 pm
After seeing a thread recently I just wondered what everyone feels about foot trimming?

I know the school of thought now is to not trim and to cull anything with feet problems which I agree with.

But Is prevention better than cure?  I believe culling is the key to getting a good foot in your flock.

Thoughts please :)
Title: Re: Thoughts on foot trimming?
Post by: SteveHants on July 30, 2013, 05:30:33 pm
Culling aside - the current vetenary thinking is that 'routine' foot trimming just gives infectious organisms an entrance route.


Of course, if something is limping, you should treat its foot, but otherwise take a 'function over form' approach. If it is functioning happily as a foot, but is aesthetically unappealing to a human eye, why trim? Its doing its job - if it aint broke, don't fix it.
Title: Re: Thoughts on foot trimming?
Post by: Hillview Farm on July 30, 2013, 05:31:28 pm
Couldn't have put it better myself!
Title: Re: Thoughts on foot trimming?
Post by: Foobar on July 30, 2013, 05:33:08 pm
I trim as little as possible. I'd only trim if there was a problem or it was very overgrown.  Defo cull anything that suffers with foot issues more than once.
And feed as little concentrates as possible, I find feeding makes the feet grow faster than they would normally.

If I had a tarmac road to run them up and down I would do, or some other hard standing  which they could frequent to wear their feet and keep them hard.  Soft wet muddy grassland is no good for sheep's feet.
Title: Re: Thoughts on foot trimming?
Post by: shygirl on July 30, 2013, 05:43:37 pm
im not a sheep expert and all of mine have been rare breeds which lived over a variety of terrain, including steep hillside and open plan forest/pasture. and we rarely had problems.
but if you put sheep into a flat square paddock with soft lush grass surely they will need trimming at some point? rough hill land would keep the feet trim i expect but its pretty flat in general around here.

Title: Re: Thoughts on foot trimming?
Post by: roddycm on July 30, 2013, 05:56:21 pm
I believe that if the sheep are on soft ground and have no chance to wear their feet down a bit you have to expect a certain amount of problems here and there.... it all just depends on how and where you farm you farm your sheep. I operate a two strikes and out policy, everything gets a second chance but thats it! But the ground around me is on the damper side...
Title: Re: Thoughts on foot trimming?
Post by: SteveHants on July 30, 2013, 06:49:16 pm
im not a sheep expert and all of mine have been rare breeds which lived over a variety of terrain, including steep hillside and open plan forest/pasture. and we rarely had problems.
but if you put sheep into a flat square paddock with soft lush grass surely they will need trimming at some point? rough hill land would keep the feet trim i expect but its pretty flat in general around here.


Only if it limps - it doesn't 'need' trimming if it isn't causing the sheep any aggro. The sheep doesn't care that its toenails look overgrown to a human. I would say this especially applies on damp ground as infectious organisms tend to survive better in the wet.
Title: Re: Thoughts on foot trimming?
Post by: Marches Farmer on August 01, 2013, 03:01:09 pm
So long as you keep the bottom blade resting on the base of the sole you won't take too much off.  If you have a container of iodine solution handy and put the shears in it between sheep you won't spread nasties either.
Title: Re: Thoughts on foot trimming?
Post by: Alicenz on August 01, 2013, 03:11:27 pm
I agree with shygirl - flat damp paddocks cause problems, and naturally the nail would wear away on hard ground.   I clip if a sheep is looking uncomfortable, and keep an eye on them all and trim over long ones as these will eventally become problematic.  I think it is a bit odd to cull a good ewe because its nails have got long - it only takes a minute to sort it out.  In the past that was part of sheep care, and if done properly ( as Marches farmer says)  and when it is dry, when required is only going to help the sheep and not cause problems. The damp on my property is the culprit in any hoof overgrowth, as the same animals on a drier property were fine.
Title: Re: Thoughts on foot trimming?
Post by: shygirl on August 01, 2013, 03:23:42 pm
I operate a two strikes and out policy, everything gets a second chance but thats it! But the ground around me is on the damper side...

is this for overgrown feet or for more complicated foot rot and poor feet in general?
i do believe good feet are mainly genetic so can be bred into a herd but management and type of land plays a big part in how long their feet last. if you are wanting maximum kg in growth, you wont want your sheep on hard rocky ground but lush grass so you would need to be prepared to trim.
if you had mountain sheep, then good feet are a priority as you might not bring them in for months on end and therefore couldnt treat the lame ones. mountain sheep are slower finishing so maximum kg/time ratio isnt as important as sound stock.
Title: Re: Thoughts on foot trimming?
Post by: roddycm on August 01, 2013, 10:25:16 pm
No I don't mind if they are overgrown and sound. It the limpers and foot rotters that get the strikes! Defo agree that its genetic and you can breed to improve this. I breed black welsh so yes their feet are a priority for me, they should be as low maintenance as possible to keep within the breed standard. However my friends who breed commercially (mainly texel on mule crosses with a few dorsets) also operate a similar system... It was talking to them when I first got started that got me onto my current system. I guess its all a matter of personal preference when it comes down to it. One person's right way may be anothers wrong way, the main thing is to find out what works best for you.
Title: Re: Thoughts on foot trimming?
Post by: SteveHants on August 01, 2013, 10:41:54 pm
My ground is hardly rocky - you cull according to whatever fits your system.


To be honest I have never had a limper that was down to overgrown feet - I have had the odd one that has a stone in the cleat, which I have picked out, obviously I wouldn't cull for that.


Any limpers I have had have had scald or rot an in that case they get tided up and sent down the road.


Yes, trimming feet used to be part of routine sheep care and management, but it has been found that it was doing more harm than good and can introduce foot problems where there weren't any so it has been largely dropped as a management tool.
Title: Re: Thoughts on foot trimming?
Post by: Alicenz on August 01, 2013, 11:43:40 pm
My sheep would get sore feet from overlong hooves, as the nail can curl under and fill with mud and then cause problems because of the continued damp. Many rural vets will still tell a person with a small flock to check the nail is not to long and trim it if it is - but properly and carefully. Scald is easily treated in a small flock.  I understand that alot of the move against trimming(only when required) is the time on commercial operations that it takes, and infection is only caused by improperly trimmed hooves - many people cut them too short. Cut our own nails too short and we would get infections too. But I understand that point of view as in a larger flock it would be time consuming and it is difficult to ensure everyone trims them correctly.  Im glad im not a sheep my nails grow VERY quickly!
Title: Re: Thoughts on foot trimming?
Post by: SteveHants on August 01, 2013, 11:52:10 pm
My sheep would get sore feet from overlong hooves, as the nail can curl under and fill with mud and then cause problems because of the continued damp. Many rural vets will still tell a person with a small flock to check the nail is not to long and trim it if it is - but properly and carefully. Scald is easily treated in a small flock.  I understand that alot of the move against trimming(only when required) is the time on commercial operations that it takes, and infection is only caused by improperly trimmed hooves - many people cut them too short. Cut our own nails too short and we would get infections too. But I understand that point of view as in a larger flock it would be time consuming and it is difficult to ensure everyone trims them correctly.  Im glad im not a sheep my nails grow VERY quickly!


How do you know its a problem? Its only a problem if the sheep doesn't like it - ie is limping. Yes, scald is easily treated - but there is a genetic proponent to susceptability to scald, ergo if you dont cull for it, you are consigning future generations of sheep to getting scald which is a pretty unpleasant thin to wish on your sheep.


Our nails don't have contact with the ground - short or not, you are opening up the cuticle.


Many large flocks used to be trimmed routinely - now sheep are expected to have sound feet - the latter is much better in welfare terms, IMO.
Title: Re: Thoughts on foot trimming?
Post by: Alicenz on August 02, 2013, 12:45:39 am
Hi steve i think we will have to agree to disagree.   :) I know what you are saying and yes it may be different in a commercial breeding situation. I am aware many farmers do not trim but cull.  But when one takes orphans for keeps, you get all sorts from all sorts of farmers good and not so good. I have had some sheep that did have sore feet (yes limping badly looking miserable overnight -with no scald), which once trimmed properly and cleaned up, were fine.  Sometimes when they get too long they can break a nail which can split up the hoof - a trim will save that sheep from suffering and potentially culling. A very good sheep vet said it was the thing to do unless i wanted to get rid of them. Which i did not.  I keep an eye on the length of the nails to avoid this.  Commercial farmer friends would do the same if it was just for a long nail.  They will pull a few limping sheep out from a 1000 ewes when they are in the yards and check them clip them if needed. 

Personally i think it is about how it is done and in what weather conditions I generally make sure it is dry underfoot, and have tetravet spray on hand.  I dont do it routinely but if feet are looking misshapen or not in good nick I will trim.  And I care for my sheep and would not do it if I thought i was potentially creating more problems. I check their feet - because they are tame it is easy to do.And welfare wise I would never let an animal suffer.

I dont breed - my 28 are pets so hear what you are saying re susceptibility to scald in future generations. I guess on this forum there are people with large blocks that are commercial and those that are not that are in the country for different reasons and also have space for some sheep.   So really it is maybe also dependant on why one is keeping sheep.  Mine are here permanently and so i must ensure they are in good nick at all times so they have healthy and happy lives.  You will think i am crazy!  Dont worry i have had no problems because of trimming.
Title: Re: Thoughts on foot trimming?
Post by: humphreymctush on August 02, 2013, 11:31:01 am
When I first got into sheep I was advised by an old farmer to trim routinely, then about 10 years ago I read an article in a magazine that said it was a bad thing to do so I stopped. I subsequently got less foot problems. I used to get a lot of foot rot and scald but now I don't. I put this down to routine footbathing in Zinc Sulphate.
As for overgrown feet, I think its a cause and effect thing. You see a sheep limping with over grown feet and its easy to assume that she is limping because her feet are overgrown. It is more likely she is limping because she has an infection that has also caused her feet to overgrow.
Title: Re: Thoughts on foot trimming?
Post by: lachlanandmarcus on August 02, 2013, 11:43:16 am
When I first got into sheep I was advised by an old farmer to trim routinely, then about 10 years ago I read an article in a magazine that said it was a bad thing to do so I stopped. I subsequently got less foot problems. I used to get a lot of foot rot and scald but now I don't. I put this down to routine footbathing in Zinc Sulphate.
As for overgrown feet, I think its a cause and effect thing. You see a sheep limping with over grown feet and its easy to assume that she is limping because her feet are overgrown. It is more likely she is limping because she has an infection that has also caused her feet to overgrow.


I think that's right. Mine appear to follow that pattern. Now I have twenty or so ewes I'm planning to be selecting only those with decent feet for breeding from now on, as well as temperament etc. the few with less than good feet (repeat offenders) will be culled out gradually and not put in lamb. Our old ram didn't have very good feet and so Although the feet are OK in the flock, I  need to improve the genetics (which I am doing now using better ram/s, so this years lambs will fingers crossed have good feet)