Hoof Trimming on our Gotland Sheep
Our beautiful flock of Gotland Sheep had quite an exciting week on the farm (and we had some fun, too)! Though they didn’t get candles and spa music, they did get their nails trimmed, CDT vaccines, and haircuts all around (Blog on sheep shearing/CDT shots to come later…). So, let’s start with nail trimming.
An essential part of keeping a flock of sheep is maintaining their hooves. Because our sheep are not roaming mountainsides and grazing rocky pastures, their hooves can get extremely overgrown while kept on soft terrain like straw bedding or dirt. Over time, the hoof wall will begin to curl over and trap manure, debris, and bacteria. This can not only create uncomfortable walking conditions, but can also cause more serious issues like foot rot which is a common infection in sheep, goats, and cattle. Not only is it painful for the sheep, but the bacteria can be spread and create ongoing issues for the health of your flock. If you notice early signs of dermatitis, redness, or swelling in between the hoof, you can use an antibacterial spray or gel on the area. If the infection is at its later stages, we’ve read about people doing copper or zinc foot baths. Luckily, we didn’t have to do either of these things!
Just like us, domesticated sheep need a good foot care routine. In hotter, wetter months it’s a good idea to trim more regularly (every few months), but twice a year AT LEAST (once in the spring, and once in the fall) is a good rule of thumb. After evaluation, our flock of Gotlands were way overdue and we were glad to get this taken care of!
Few things you should have:
-A GOOD pair of hoof trimmers
-Lots of cookies
One item that was super handy to have was our deck chair from Premier 1 (https://www.premier1supplies.com/p/deck-chair?gclid=Cj0KCQjwgYSTBhDKARIsAB8KuksWwSg5Ma207Enkyg7RWO4aJYMbH1iKdai5wFbvV77u1Eh4qTRW8FkaAgWSEALw_wcB)
We’re definitely not professional sheep-wrestlers, though we are getting there… This chair made it a little easier to help get them in a comfortable position, especially since we have some expecting mamma’s. You just back the sheep into the front plate of the chair, and flip them onto their backs so all four are off the floor! It’s like a sheep-hammock! I even tried it out, and have to say - it’s quite comfortable!
Kara, Ross, and I made this a team effort - two of us worked on trimming while we had one designated sheep-cuddler (is that a word?) who administered cookies and made sure they didn’t squirm out of the chair.
Use the hoof pick to start, scraping away any buildup that hinders your ability to see the sole of the foot. Keep the angle of your trimmers flat against the sole of the foot and begin trimming from the back (or heel) side. Once you can see the sole and the quick, you can begin trimming the tip of the hoof back. You want the outer hoof wall level with the sole of the foot! Continue trimming away where there are any cavities or curling between the hoof wall and the sole. Try not to leave any sharp edges or points that could make the hooves prone to cracking under walking pressure. I’ll post some before and after photos below.
When we finished trimming, we gracefully “dumped” the sheep out of the chair, and of course, gave them more cookies… At one point, Lupine decided to raid my pockets of cookies while holding Eweness in the chair. It was pretty cute, and she was almost successful.
Other news in the sheep world… We are getting ready for lambing season, and we are positive now that we will have some babies! Trying to get all of our supplies together and plan our jugs (lamb pens) for when babies come. So much more to discuss, until next time!