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5 hoof-trimming chute must-haves

Progressive Dairy Editor Emma Ohirko Published on 19 October 2020

There is a growing understanding that lame cows, once identified, should be treated as soon as possible. This can be difficult when producers rely on hoof trimmers, which may not be available on short notice.

To address this, trimming in-house may be an option for some. In order to make this possible, a safe and efficient hoof-trimming chute is required.

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Like with many big purchases, it can be hard to differentiate between the variety of hoof-trimming chutes currently on the market. When browsing for an effective chute, producers should look for options which provide a safe, comfortable and efficient trimming experience for trimmer and cow alike.

Three seasoned hoof trimmers share with Progressive Dairy five of their hoof-trimming chute must-haves:

1. Hydraulic components. Having a chute with hydraulic components allows the chute to take on more of the workload, lessening the manual work involved with hoof trimming. Raymond Boulais, a hoof trimmer from Quebec who trims over 3,000 cows per year, says the hydraulic support on his KVK chute holds all four hooves in place. “This allows me to trim quickly and efficiently all while having both my hands on the grinder,” he says.

Open design

Jamie Sullivan of Rippleview Hoof Care, a hoof trimmer based out of Manitoba with over 25 years of experience, agrees that having hydraulic components is a big advantage. He says his Anka hoof-trimming chute has limited moving parts and mostly involves ropes and hydraulic cylinders – this minimizes the amount of maintenance he has to do. “I’ve gone a year without changing [hydraulic components], and that’s trimming over 10,000 cows a year,” Sullivan says.

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2. Ensured comfort for the trimmer and the cow. With regards to comfort level for operator and cow, Sullivan says, “No matter which brand of chute, we’ve come a long way in terms of both.” To elaborate, Sullivan says the animal should fit safely in the chute so as not to risk injury to itself or the trimmer. He also says the chute should be designed in such a way that the trimmer is able to work in a comfortable position, which can be held for an extended period of time. He argues this is of particular importance when farm employees get involved in the trimming process, as the risk of injury could bring unwanted consequences.

Gaston Fournier prefers the tilt function

Gaston Fournier, a Quebec-based hoof trimmer who trims up to 100 cows per day through his business Taillages de Sabot G.F., says he prefers a tilt table like his Tuffy Tilt chute has. He says it offers a greater level of comfort for the trimmer. “If there are not two trimmers, you are walking a lot more with a stand-up chute – you are constantly walking circles around the cow.”

Boulais notes that when the cow and trimmer are comfortable, if the chute is open enough, there is an opportunity to use it beyond hoof trimming. “I like being able to have access to the cow to treat her, especially with regards to her udder,” Boulais says. He says having a chute that is comfortable can allow the producer to observe the cow’s health and use it as a safe space to administer treatments.

3. Leg restraints. Fournier relies on fast-attaching leg fastenings in his chute to get the cow trimmed quickly and precisely. He says the leg fastenings and the hydraulic components included in his chute allow him to change the cow in the chute within 45 seconds.

Small hoof trimming chute

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Sullivan says his chute’s leg restraints allow him to ensure the cow is as still as possible while trimming. He notes this is key to the safety of the operator and the animal. When hooves are well restrained and the chute design is open, he says he is able to access nearly every part of the hoof, making for a more accurate trim.

4. Proper support for the cow. Boulais notes that as long as a cow is having its hooves trimmed, it is lacking proper footing, making proper support imperative for a safe trim. He says his chute has well-designed cow support bands. “This allows the animal to remain stable during the trimming,” he adds.

Hoof trimming chute with minimal moving parts

Sullivan utilizes the dual stomach bands that form an integral part of his chute, to make sure the cow is supported throughout the trimming experience. He says the bands prevent the cow from falling or kneeling down on its back legs. Conversely, Fournier says his chute has a panel instead of straps to hold the animal in place. He credits the panel for creating a lower-stress environment for the cow. “It makes it so the cow is much less nervous,” he says.

5. Compactness. Depending on barn height and size, the dimensions of a hoof-trimming chute may be an issue. Fournier uses a more compact chute, which he says allows him to manoeuvre easily in barns with lower ceilings and doorways. He also says the compact nature of his chute eliminates the need for a large trailer, as his chute is equipped with wheels.

A cow should be well supported by the hoof trimming chute

Boulais says a machine that is bigger will take up more square footage, resulting in loss of space, which he says translates directly to higher operating costs. “Having a machine that is as small as possible, while still remaining functional, is certainly an asset for me,” he says.

Beyond the characteristics mentioned above, Boulais and Fournier emphasize that producers serious about buying their own hoof-trimming chute should test it out in person. Fournier says, “If [someone] is not comfortable with the chute, they won’t use it.” Sullivan and Boulais also agree that having proper training on how to trim and how to operate the chute is very important. Sullivan says the chute should come with a training session from the company to inform users on the specific operating function of the given brand of chute, and users should make an effort to refresh their skills often. “We can all get into bad habits,” he says.  end mark

PHOTO 1: If it has an open design, a hoof-trimming chute’s use can extend beyond its intended purpose and serve as a useful place to observe and treat cows. Photo by Raymond Boulais.

PHOTO 2: Gaston Fournier says he prefers the tilt function of his hoof-trimming chute, as it makes for a more comfortable hoof-trimming experience. Photo provided by Gaston Fournier.

PHOTO 3: Choosing a small hoof-trimming chute will help minimize the overall operating costs of owning one, mentions hoof trimmer Raymond Boulais. Photo by Raymond Boulais.

PHOTO 4: A hoof-trimming chute with minimal moving parts will help reduce maintenance needs, says hoof trimmer Jamie Sullivan. Photo by Jamie Sullivan.

PHOTO 5: A cow should be well supported by the hoof-trimming chute in order to prevent falling and ensure the cow’s safety while trimming. Photos by Jamie Sullivan.

Emma Ohirko
  • Emma Ohirko

  • Editor
  • Progressive Dairy
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