Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Pygmy Goats and Garden Shears

The combination is just as dangerous as it sounds. A few days ago I noticed that all goat hooves were in need of a trim, which I assumed would be a two-person activity. I am headed to Toronto for a while tomorrow morning, so David and I tackled this task tonight along with our two-horse and two-goat cheerleaders.

Morsel and Timbit were bottle-fed as babies, and they are sociable to a fault. They are not, however, keen on being pinned upside-down atop the hay feeder while I stab at their feet with a dull pair of pruning shears. Timbit went first and his unholy bellowing attracted Tonka and Raven to the scene, both of whom proceeded to help by (1) scratching themselves on our mostly-incapacitated bodies and (2) bickering over the hay in the feeder. Totally unconcerned by the fate of their herd mate, Morsel and Roland proceeded to help by (1) eating the hoof-trimming instructions and (2) jumping up and down off the feeder. Once Timbit was upright all was instantly forgiven, and he had a little chew on the instructions too.

Roland McNugget was not bottle-fed as a baby. This makes him harder to catch when he's suspicious of your motives, but I guess it also left his survival instincts more intact. Once flipped upside down he played dead and surprised both of us by being the easiest goat to trim. And by "easiest" I mean "still really challenging" mostly because I don't know what I'm doing and we need a sharper pair of shears for me to do it with.


Anonymous said...

Hooves in all forms are one of those things about farm animals I find mightily mysterious. Give me nasty, uncooperative cats and dogs, and I'll clip nails all day. Give me a savvy, quiet horse, or heaven forbid, a rowdy goat, and I'd be as likely to trim them off at the ankles...

I think that's one of the things I find so fascinating about your project with Tonka. It just seems so...mystical.

Moonbrained Mare said...

Oh man, goat trimming. I have two boer crosses and have done a lot of flipping and pinning ... lucky for you your goats are super small! Hm. I don't know how relevant this is but what I do to keep my goats still is put them down on their side and have someone lean on their neck. If they're really kicking with their back feet I'll pull the one closest to the ground up so they can't start to get up. They might not fight so hard if they're on their side as apposed on on their back?

I only have knowledge from what I picked up from my dad and my own experiences, but if you have any specific questions about the actual trimming I might be able to help :)

dp said...

Thanks for the comments, folks.

HH: I am perfectly comfortable with claws, and I understand the front part of hooves pretty well. It's the heels that really mess with my mind -- how does that hard material turn to soft material?

MM: About 1/4 through the first goat I said to David "at least they're little goats". I can't even imagine doing a Boer. Our dairy-farmer/hay-salesman had been telling us about cow trimming earlier in the day, and I would have been lost without his advice. I will try your on-the side method next time. I feel pretty comfortable about the cutting, except at the insides of the heels. Our instructions say that the tips of the hooves should sit quite close together, which means trimming out a lot of material between the hooves at the back -- correct?

Moonbrained Mare said...

Hmm, I don't know about that ... I've never paid attention to whether the tips of the toes in particular were close together (as I say, though, I'm not an expert).

Trimming out a lot of material between the hooves at the back in order to point the toes together sounds alarming, and I wouldn't recommend it! You don't want to start trying to re-shape the foot as a beginner. However thinking about it the heels at the back do tend to grow inward a bit ... I'm thinking that might be what you're talking about, in which case yes it is fine to trim any extraneous bits off even though it is soft.

One of the key things I do when trimming is trim off any overhang on both the insides and outsides of the hooves (cleats? toes?). Overhang isn't really the right word, but it'll have to do ... I mean where the hoof is starting to curve and end bits begin to grow off to the side.
Anyway that might be what they're referring to: keeping the insides of the 'toes' nice and straight so they sit together properly. I think if you aim for straightness, you'll find that the toes will be close together (judge that when the foot is off the ground, of course).

Dunno if your guide says, but if you cut too much they will bleed - keep an eye out for pink spots!

Arg, I have to go and check to see if my goats' toes are close together now! Hahaha xD hope this wasn't too confusing. I just looked at the clock and it's half past one in the morning here :0

Moonbrained Mare said...

Oh, hah, while I'm telling stories (late night makes me long-winded, can you tell?).

I grew up helping my dad cut the goats' feet so putting them on the ground is really routine, even though actually doing it myself is fairly recent ('flipping' was the wrong word, it's really just "oh gosh where did half my legs go THUMP").

Anyway I had the vet out to a pig to lance an ulcer, and she was trying to get her down on the ground. This is a little friendly old pig and she was sedated to boot but this bloody inept woman was draping some brand new rope around over her shoulders and being completely ignored. She kept trying and the pig kept walking away wondering what that vague tugging sensation was. I asked if I should have a go, she says yes having evidently decided it was impossible. I whipped the pig's legs out from under her and knelt on her and you should have SEEN the vet's face!

... damn, that story kind of loses the funny in text form.

dp said...

I will scan our (half-eaten) instructions for you when I get home. I did get a little blood on Morsel, but it wasn't serious. I am hoping that Christina (horse trimmer) might help me out next time, as she also has goats.