Sunday, June 28, 2015

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Mystery Solved

I stumbled on this picture of a moose with very overgrown hooves a few days ago when I was looking for photos of goat hooves on Google images.  At the time, I couldn't find any attribution for it.  However, several people were curious about it and I was too so I did a bit more research about it.

My initial assumption about this animal was that it must have been an orphan raised on a farm.  I thought that because you don't normally see something like this on a wild animal.  Their feet wear down naturally through movement and the wide variety in their diet generally keeps them from suffering from mineral deficiencies.  Lack of exercise, lack of dietary variety and too much sugar are the root cause of hoof problems in domestic animals.  Most wild animals avoid these pitfalls.

However, here is this moose, and after looking little harder, I finally found that this photo was attached to this news story from an Alaskan newspaper.  It turns out that this is a moose from the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska and this hoof deformity is common in the moose population there.  It is caused by a severe copper deficiency and is also seen in moose who eat large amounts of cattle feed (there's the sugar problem).  

I think that one of the main reasons many horse and donkey owners are highly resistant to the idea of nutritional problems is that their animals ARE well fed.  They look fat, sleek and shiny so how could there be a problem?  This moose is a perfect example though - she is also fat, sleek and shiny, but a mineral deficiency will likely be the death of her at some point.

And since Farm Buddy is sick of hearing about hooves and nutrition, she thought we should take a look at some of the other feet around here.  Godzilla sized feet....










Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Evening Milking

These were all supposed to be part of Monday's post with the calves, but it was late and the computer crashed again and I was going to have to go to bed or take an ax to the computer.  I opted for sleep:)

***
Milking time...



The prevailing wisdom says that livestock guardian dogs have to be raised with the livestock and NEVER treated like pets or they won't be any good as guard dogs.  We have never bought into this notion and Bess is proving it wrong every day.  Despite not having been raised with the flock, she loves her sheep and is incredibly good with them.  She flows in and around them like a harmless bit of cloud and they love her for it.

Shannon finally had her calf while I was away at the conference.  A nice, healthy bull calf.


I can't say that Shannon is the best mom as she is rather nonchalant about her baby, but she does like and feed him so it's OK.  She is much better than the last two.  Unfortunately, she is still letting one of the big steers from last year drink as well, but as long as the baby gets enough milk it's not terrible. Not yet anyway.  The mothering instinct has just been bred out of so many dairy cows.

These two boys are best buddies, playmates and troublemakers.

The mom of the year award goes to Violet, the herd matriarch.  She is the big black and white cow in the back.  The even bigger black mom-cow in the front with her calf is Queen Ann's Lace (aka, the Queen).  She is one of Violet's earlier calves.  Those ladies know how to do the job.

Don't you all wish you could stick your tongue up your nose too?

This is Rose, who will, unfortunately, be Violet's last calf.  Violet is getting quite old and her udder was damaged a few years ago.  She loves her baby, but does not have milk for her so Jane is helping to feed Rose.  Violet will retire and we will likely keep Rose.  Rose gets to be the recipient of that yellow pail and she too has the tongue skills to take care of that milk mustache.

Jane is still overly fixated on FB, but has calmed down and is being a good milk cow despite also being the most neurotic cow I've ever known.  We all have our little foibles right?


Jane does have interesting freckles.
 

And when the work is done, the puppy gets to lick the bowl.  Never, ever let your LGD be a pet right?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

More alike than different


Michaele left this comment on one of my hoof posts the other day: "This was very informative! I really enjoyed reading it. Now can you do one on goat hooves?"  So, a word about hooves for all of you sheep, goat and cow folks out there...

I think Michaele may have been joking, but in all seriousness, every single thing I have written about horse and donkey hooves DOES apply.  Everything is much the same.  The hoof wall should mirror the interior structures and there needs to be adequate sole depth.   Each claw of a cloven hoof has a distal phalanx (coffin bone), the lamellar connections are identical and nutrition is just as critical. Each claw needs to be trimmed separately, but in balance with its mate.

 I found this drawing of the anatomy of a cloven hoof....

It looks a lot like this drawing of a horse hoof doesn't it?



Here's a bit of trivia that few people seem to know:  Cows get laminitis just like horses do.  In fact, it is the second leading cause of lameness in cows with hoof-rot (thrush) coming in first.  The only reason it does not happen more frequently in cattle is that most cows are generally either young, growing stock or are kept in some stage of gestation and/or lactation so their nutritional needs are higher.  You also won't hear about it much because a cow or goat with laminitis generally gets shoved onto a truck bound for the slaughter house.  Laminitis is a very big problem for anyone who keeps oxen.  That is because oxen (which can be of any breed) are generally castrated, mature males who have lower nutritional requirements. 

Another bit of trivia: Dairy and beef farmers who have a lot of foot problems in their herds will call in their feed supplier to analyze the rations and balance the mineral content of the feed.  

I don't meant to sound like a broken record, but I do hope ya'all are seeing a trend here:)

Healthy feet have a number of things in common, regardless of species:
  • They are short
  • The front of the hoof is straight from hairline to ground
  • The outer surface of the hooves are smooth and have a natural shine
All the things that these very nice little goat hooves demonstrate....

Once you know what a good foot should look like and begin to understand how the outer hoof needs to mirror the inner anatomy, you can start to see all the things wrong in the hoof below (I stole these from the web)
If I was going to try to trim these poor hooves, I would start at the heel, trimming the overgrown walls down to just above the sole and doing my best to restore the medial/lateral balance.  Then bring the toes back.  These hooves are damaged enough that it would likely take several trimmings.

Remember Shannon, the cow who came to stay with me for a few weeks (she did finally have her calf while I was away at the conference, pictures coming soon)?  These are her feet....

They are over-long and could use a trim, which I am NOT going to be doing.  Shannon is not that cooperative.  To trim these, I would start at the heels and then bring the toes back, probably to about where the shiny black on the bottom meets the duller part about an inch up.

Even without picking them up, there is a lot of interesting stuff going on here that can be seen just from the outside.  As a side note: Shannon is perfectly sound on these, but if she were a riding horse, she would not stay that way for long without help.

The first things you notice are that the claws are not short and straight like the nice goat hooves above.  They also have many horizontal rings in them and the top 3/4 have a permanently dirty, rough and dull look.

I have to inject a bit of history here so you can understand what you are seeing.  All of these Ayrshire cows came off a farm belonging to some friends of FB's.  They are a couple who own a very small dairy in a neighboring town.  Last fall, the man was diagnosed with cancer and given a very scary prognosis.  Faced with this, they sold off most of their cows, but did not want to part with all of them and they asked FB if she would board them for her over the winter.  She does not usually board cows, but how could she say no?

She agreed, but only if they could provide food for them and this is where trouble started.  After sampling a bale from a local farmer (if you can call him that), they bought 60 balages for these cows.  The bales they sampled were fine before the purchase where fine, but the miserable crook who sold them pulled a switch and delivered rotten feed - and I do mean rotten.  Unfortunately, with balage, there is no way to know what it will be like until it is unwrapped and they did not discover this evil perfidy until January, leaving them scrambling to find feed for 25 cows in middle of the worst winter in recorded history.

With great effort, they did find good quality feed.  Everyone had plenty to eat and survived the winter from hell (FB just barley) and the big cancer scare turned out not to be a big deal after all so everyone gets to live happily ever after.  However, the feed that they were able to get came from several different farms and was certainly not as good a quality as the stuff FB generally has and you can see it in the feet.

Look close at the bottom one inch of this foot....

....See how shiny, black and smooth it is?  That is what healthy hoof should look like.  See how the upper 3/4 of the hoof is dull, dirty and has numerous horizontal rings in it?  Notice also how the claws become curved instead of flowing in a straight line from the hair to the ground. 

That is what happens when a hoof becomes overgrown and if you don't have the right amounts and balance of minerals in the diet.  If this were a horse or donkey, I would be very worried about laminitis.  Putting Shannon on a supplement that contains high levels of zinc and copper would help these feet a great deal.  She is now out on grass at FB's.  It will be interesting to see how her feet change after a summer of rich grazing.  

It may seem like a daunting task, but hooves of all species have more in common than they differ.  If you have a goat, sheep or cow that needs trimming, start by envisioning what the foot should look like based on the inner structures.  Get yourself a rasp (because it takes a lot of work to hurt a hoof with just a rasp) and start by balancing the heels and shortening the toe.  And check the diet.  You will never trim a healthy foot without a healthy diet.  That holds true no matter what you are trying to trim.