Trimming leads to a higher risk of infection, deformed hoof horn, more granulomas, more lameness, and more culling. Read more about this in the original paper. Routine trimming is unnecessary and damaging; healthy sheep with recently trimmed feet are more prone to infection. Here’s the paper that describes that experiment.
Trimming to treat footrot delays healing
We know that antibiotic injection and spray is the best treatment for scald and footrot thanks to an experiment on a UK farm where we compared four different treatments:
- Injection + spray
- Spray only
- Trimming + injection + spray
- Trimming + spray
We then counted how many sheep recovered with each treatment within 10 days. The original paper is available.
From the graph, you can see that injection + spray is the best way for sheep to recover quickly, and that anytime trimming was involved in treatment, the recovery rate was lower, even with an antibiotic injection.
Overgrown hooves don’t lead to footrot
Many people believe that trimming is necessary to take off overgrown hoof horn on sheep’s feet. But overgrown hooves are not the cause of lameness. In fact, footrot and other lameness-causing diseases are the cause of overgrown hoof horn. This happens because the sheep is in pain and so not putting any weight on the foot, which means the hoof doesn’t get worn down like it normally would while walking. So if you see an overgrown hoof, make sure to look for any signs of infection and treat appropriately.
Hooves change length naturally over the course of a year
You should also keep in mind that sheep’s hooves are rarely perfectly short naturally. Their natural length varies throughout the year based on the weather and the type of ground they are on. The length of the hoof follows a seasonal cycle where it naturally grows then gets worn down.
The graph shows the seasonal cycle that hoof length follows. They are taken from a research paper.
What to do next:
Take the quiz on trimming
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