Skip to Content

The Weekly News Source for Wyoming's Ranchers, Farmers and AgriBusiness Community

Producers encouraged to look for several factors influencing cattle hoof health

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Overgrown beef cattle hooves can lead to lameness, extreme discomfort, infections and other serious issues. 

Identifying the root cause of a hoof problem early on can help producers address the issue swiftly to prevent long-term damage and agitation.

On occasion, providers may need to trim beef cattle hooves to help keep them from going lame, according to Kansas State University (KSU) Beef Cattle Institute (BCI) veterinarians.

During an episode of BCI’s Cattle Chat podcast, dated Feb. 16, KSU veterinarians suggest some beef cattle may require occasional hoof trimming and address the necessity of regular hoof trims for herd animals.

Factors affecting hoof health 

“In beef cattle operations, cows walking around on the ground, rocks and sand typically have normal wear which keeps their hooves the length they need to be,” states KSU Veterinarian Dr. Brian Lubbers. “However, sometimes older cows that don’t move around much will need to have their hooves trimmed.”

Lubbers adds if every few cows out of 100 need hoof trims, it is considered to normal.

“If two percent of the herd needs a routine trim, it’s to be expected. But, if 50 percent of the herd needs to have their hooves trimmed yearly, then there is likely something else going on,” Lubbers notes.

KSU Veterinarian Dr. Bob Larson suggests excess hoof growth could be linked to diet, especially a high-grain diet causing acidosis, which can lead to hoof problems.

“Cattle eating a high-grain diet or ones consuming crop residues with substantial amounts of grain can get acidosis, which can lead to hoof problems,” Larson says. “Also, there are some minerals that need to be included in the diet to promote healthy hoof growth.”

Genetics can also influence hoof growth, notes KSU Veterinarian Dr. Brad White, citing corkscrew claw as an example. 

This condition causes an animal’s toe to turn in such a way that the outer hoof wall can come in direct contact with the ground because the toes turn inward, making the toe looks like a corkscrew, hence, the name corkscrew claw. 

“There is a genetic component to corkscrew claw, which is a claw that turns under the hoof, and those will have to be trimmed regularly,” White states.

Hoof management

On a previous BCI Cattle Chat episode from December 2020, Larson discusses cattle environment, which can also lead to hoof issues. For example, if cattle are standing in mud, they can experience foot rot. 

“Foot rot is a bacterial infection which occurs between the claws of the hoof. In the summer, it can develop when cattle are standing in wet or muddy areas,” Larson says.

He adds foot rot typically occurs when cows get a cut from a rock on the soft tissue between the hoof claws and an infection develops in the wound.

“The organism causing foot rot lives in the soil so it is present all the time,” Larson states. “One of the first signs of foot rot is the impacted animal begins to walk with a limp or become lame.”

However, foot rot typically responds well to antibiotic treatment and the animal will be back to being sound pretty quickly after appropriate treatment.

One of the easiest ways to prevent foot rot is to manage cattle in a clean, dry environment to minimize mud exposure, Larson explains. He further notes some producers include iodine in their mineral mix or as a feed supplement.

“With any iodine or salt feed additive it is hard to know for sure the cow is getting the right dose, so it might offer some preventative aspects, but it would not be a treatment,” Larson notes.

Also, if cows happen to step on a sharp object, they can develop an abscess in the soft tissue attached to the hoof.

“Any time cattle experience a hoof issue, it is really important to get them in so a veterinarian can do a thorough examination to determine the problem and treat it appropriately,” Larson concludes. “Early identification of the problem and quick treatment is key, as well as preventative management.”

In the event of a hoof issue, the KSU veterinarians stress the importance of consulting a veterinarian for a thorough examination and appropriate treatment.

Melissa Anderson is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

  • Posted in Animal Health
  • Comments Off on Producers encouraged to look for several factors influencing cattle hoof health
Back to top