As dairy farmers, we all know hoof care and foot health are vital to the profitability of our operation. While nutrition can play a role in foot health, proper hoof care is key in maintaining a cow’s ability to move around, eat and function. Over the last 25 years Jamie Sullivan of Rippleview Hoof Care, MB, has focused on hoof health, training at numerous institutes, taking specialized courses, and now providing workshops and training courses for producers. He also works with farms and individuals on stress-free cattle handling and lameness prevention strategies. Jamie was also the 2016-2017 President of the Hoof Trimmer’s Association.
After a recent photo went viral on Facebook depicting hoof trimming chutes as “squeeze chutes for torturing cattle,” we sat down with Jamie to go over the importance of hoof trimming and the process involved.
1. Why do you think hoof care health is so important in dairies?
The importance of hoof health is quite simple: if a cow is lame, she doesn’t get up to eat, she doesn’t lay down for adequate rest or get a complete rest and she doesn’t get rebred as soon as she should. All of this adds up to lost income and profit for the dairy. Most importantly, a lame cow is an animal welfare issue. No farmer likes seeing their cows sick or suffering and our consumers don’t want to buy our products if they feel animal welfare is an issue. The reason the tag line for my business is “Take the right step towards Happy Healthy Cows” is because you can’t have healthy cows if you don’t have happy cows and you can’t have happy cows if they don’t have healthy feet.
2. What protocols do you (and most hoof trimmers) use to ensure cows are not stressed during the process?
For me or my employees, we never have a electric prod or cane on our person. For one if you are carrying it you are more apt to use even if in a humane manner. Besides I always look at it that if we need to force a cow to where we want her to go either our setup is wrong or we are doing something wrong. I try to use the “bud box” setup wherever possible or I have a staging lane setup that can hold 2-7 cows. Cows are always quieter when moving in a group and following each other. I want the cow (especially on her first visit to the chute) to be as calm, quiet and stress-free as possible. Cows have a better memory than we give them credit for and if they have a good experience to the chute they are quieter to work on and will go into the chute more easily on her next visit. Nothing I love more then getting a call or text the day after trimming to tell me how much milk production has gone up. That just doesn’t happen if the cow is stressed or in pain during the procedure.
3. Are cows uncomfortable or pained in any way while in the chute?
I started trimming in 1994 with a layover chute and have had an upright chute since 2006. My experience with both I can confidently say if the animal is handled correctly on the way to the chute neither system causes any pain or discomfort. Yes it something out of their routine just like if we have to go to the doctor or dentist office but is not painful. I look at it this way: I always feel better when the doctor/dentist attending to me is fun and light hearted. I try to do the same when I’m working with my patients. If one of them is a little more spirited coming to the chute I will many times stop and give them a scratch on the head just to calm them down once they are in the chute. Yes, unfortunately sometimes (just like when we go to doctor/dentist office) its more than a routine visit and there is a hoof problem that needs to be fixed. We then carefully fix the problem as pain free as possible and working with the farmer and their vet setup any protocols for treatment of infection, pain and inflammation that are needed. Even going as far sending the cow to a “special needs pen” so she doesn’t have to compete with the other animals until she is 100% recovered. In most cases they go back with the group right from the chute, as that is where they are most comfortable. Just like us they prefer to be back with friends and family when we are recovering from an injury or illness as quickly as possible.
Jamie also routinely takes video while trimming for teaching purposes, and have several on his website, www.rippleviewhoofcare.com and his YouTube channel. Click HERE to view a video of a routine hoof trimming.