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Eighty-five per cent of dairy cows are over trimmed


One speaker at the event was Swiss-born hoof care specialist, Karl Burgi, who spoke on reducing lameness through timed functional and therapeutic hoof trimming.

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From his travels across the world as a hoof trimming instructor and hoof health consultant, Karl Burgi said 85 per cent of the cows he saw were over trimmed and 20-25 per cent of the cows in North America were lame.


Mr Burgi, co-founder of the Dairyland Hoof Care Institute, explained the most common mistakes he witnessed were technicians and farmers trimming toes too short and taking too much off the inner claw.


“Toe ulcers and necrotic toes are a strict result of over trimming or too much wear on the hoof. All too often I see technicians who believe they have not done their job if the sole is not completely white, and often the quality of the trim is measured by the amount of chips on the floor.”


Mr Burgi said the sole should be at least 5mm in thickness to stay healthy and believed functional trimming was not about turning on the grinder and trimming the hoof away, it was about making an assessment to see if anything needs to be taken off or moulded.


A good trimmer should also not be measured by how many cows he could trim in one session, said Mr Burgi.


“As a professional, or as a farmer, there are only so many cows you can do a good job at. Trimming fatigue can result in over trimming, inadequate therapeutic trimming, more necrotic toes and chronic white lines.


“A white line is not going to be trimmed down well in 30 seconds or two minutes, some of them take eight to 10 minutes to do properly.”


Timing of the trim itself was also crucial, said Mr Burgi, whose customers were mostly on a two-month or five-week regular trim schedule.


He said whole herd trims might be easier for the herd manager, but they were not best practice for the cow and could sometimes be considered as the ‘lazy managers’ approach.


“Routine feet trims are invaluable and if managed properly should not be a huge demand on labour and time,” said Mr Burgi, who also warned against holding big groups of cows for a long period without water and feed when trimming was taking place.


“Milk production on the farms we visit always goes up after their routine trim. We take 10-15 cows at a time and an hour to an hour-and-a-half later the cows are back out with the others, feeding and producing more milk.”

Timed approach

Mr Burgi believed by adopting a ‘timed trimming’ approach, every cow and heifer could pass through close-up calving, early lactation and any other lameness trigger periods with the best possible claw shape and no lameness.


The functional trimming was done at the most advantageous times, optimising claw health, cow health and preventing lameness episodes. It focused on stress periods, and any changes could be a stress figure.


Timed trimming schedule

Every dry cow and close to calving heifer should be assessed and functionally trimmed 10 to three weeks before calving. Try not to trim from two weeks pre-calving to 40 days post-calving, except for urgent care, advised Mr Burgi.


“If the cow’s feet are in good shape during this period, the incidence of digital dermatitis infections can be largely reduced due to less stress on the feet. Research has shown when outside claws are overgrown the incidence of digital dermatitis goes up,” said Mr Burgi.


Even with high maintenance cows, Mr Burgi and his team try to leave the cows during this critical trigger period, only dealing with urgent care of acute lame cows.


As well as calving, lameness triggers can be heat stress, high production and any sharp change in management and generally lameness happens 45 to 60 days after a trigger period.


“I then perform one or two more lactation trims depending on the farm’s housing, environment, management, age of cow – every farm set up is different,” added Mr Burgi, who says he usually looks at all four feet twice and if assessing for the third time, usually just looks at the back feet.

  • First lactation cows are trimmed at 125 days after calving.
  • Second lactation and over are trimmed at 80 to 125 days depending on environment, management and production.
  • All cows trimmed at 120 days thereafter.
  • High maintenance cows assessed every eight to 12 weeks and trimmed if necessary.

Mr Burgi said: “Lame cows must be monitored on a daily basis, not on a weekly basis. I do not know any farmers who will only check a mastitis cow once a week, she usually checked every day and the same principle should apply to lame cows.”


  • July’s Handy Hints will be Karl Burgi’s step-by-step guide to theraputic hoof trimming.
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