4 Ways to Address Sheep and Goat Hoof Health Challenges

Wellness : Nutrition

Wellness : Health

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Purina Animal Nutrition

As grazers, sheep and goats rely on having sound feet and legs to easily access food and water sources. This means when sheep and goat hoof health issues arise, they can reduce mobility, making it difficult for animals to access proper nutrition and maintain body condition.

Sheep and goat hoof health issues can happen at any time, but they are most prominent in the spring when warming temperatures and muddy, wet conditions mix to provide the perfect environment for hoof health challenges, like hoof rot in goats and sheep. Here are four proactive steps you can take to prepare for spring sheep and goat hoof care: 

 1. Feed a mineral with zinc

A sheep and goat hoof health plan isn’t complete without feeding a mineral with zinc. Zinc plays a critical role in keratin production and maintaining hoof tissues to help support claw hardness. Zinc also has been shown to help support the immune system and healthy skin.
Look for a complete mineral with elevated zinc concentrates or chelated zinc sources such as zinc amino acid complex. These zinc sources are more bioavailable than other sources, such as zinc oxide. Improved bioavailability allows sheep and goats to absorb and use more of the mineral instead of excreting it. These benefits can give you more value for your investment.

2. Provide a clean, dry environment

Many things can impact hoof health, but foot scald and hoof rot in goats and sheep are the most common problems. These contagious diseases are typically caused by contamination from bacteria, either Dichelobacter nodosus or Fusobacterium necrophorum, which are often present in high-moisture environments.
Proper cleaning and sanitation can go a long way to keeping hoof diseases at bay. Evaluate your current pen and barn areas. Make sure you have proper drainage and slope in the pens so moisture doesn’t pool where animals walk.

Keep a close eye on high-moisture areas, such as around water sources, and add absorbent bedding material like sand as needed to help soak up excess moisture.

 3. Keep up with hoof trimming

Sheep and goat hoof trimming is an essential step in proactive hoof care. Regular goat and sheep hoof trimming will help reduce hoof length to keep hooves balanced and remove extra tissues that can provide a place for bacteria to hide.

Sheep and goat hoof trimming also allows you to closely examine the animals’ hooves to see if a hoof health issue has already started. The earlier you can identify goat and sheep hoof issues, the better. Once an animal is lame, you have a bigger problem than simply a hoof disease.

Use sheep and goat hoof trimmers for best results. Trim hooves 1-2 times per year, depending on the environment. Animals on rough country with lots of rocks might need fewer hoof trims compared to animals housed in smaller areas or animals fed a more nutrient-dense diet (which can encourage hoof growth).
One of the most important times to trim hooves is 45-60 days before breeding season. This helps to prepare rams and ewes and minimize hoof health issues that could hinder breeding.

Select replacement animals for structure and composition

Supporting sheep and goat hoof health isn’t limited to managing hoof diseases. Evaluating structural soundness is often overlooked when selecting replacement animals. If animals aren’t structurally sound, they are likely to have abnormal wear on their hooves, leading to mobility issues and ultimately impacting their longevity in the flock or herd.

When selecting replacement animals, evaluate their structural soundness. Animals’ feet should plant flat and square and not have deviation. Watch how your animals walk and stand. Do their toes point directly forward? Are their back legs square and not angled in or out at the hock?

Animals with sound feet and legs will likely make better replacements that last longer in your flock or herd.
Make things easier in the spring by implementing these proactive sheep and goat hoof care measures and providing a quality mineral year-round. Find a feed dealer here.