Veterinarians are sounding an alarm over increasing lameness in cows, goats and sheep as a result of poor hoof trimming, leading to diseases such as foot rot, sole abscesses and laminitis, hoof abscesses and painful swellings known as granuloma.
Already some 100 recorded cases of foot rot in Tetu constituency in Nyeri have caused the deaths of 30 cows, all of which could have been easily avoided, according to veterinarians.
“In the many homes we have visited in both Central and some parts of Rift Valley we didn’t move to three homes without identifying a home that has a livestock hoofing problem.
The sad bit is that farmers don’t know how important trimming the hoof is and continue seeking other treatments for their livestock without realizing the problem is actually neglect in hoof trimming,” said Marion Kutu, a veterinarian with Speco Veterinary services who have been actively involved in raising awareness on hoof trimming.
Laminitis, the commonest condition, starts with the swelling of the sensitive tissue beneath the hard walls of the hoof, causing pain, lameness, and eventually Founder, a condition where the hoof wall gets thick and overgrown, often with the toes turning up.
Speco Veterinary Services, whose veterinarians double up as hoof trimmers, have now set up 25 schools in both Central and Rift Valley provinces where they train farmers simple ways to trim the hoofs and monitor the hygiene of cow sheds, another contributor to hoof infections.
The classes every first and last Tuesday of the month involve theoretical explanations on hoofed and non hoofed livestock with practical lessons by the veterinarians. The farmers are then given turns to hoof animals that are brought to the classes to test how their master the training.
Hoof trimming, the scientists say, is a tedious and time consuming process, which explains why many farmers never bother to do it. At the same time, turning to professional hoof trimmers means high prices, at Sh2,000 to Sh4,000.
But “this doesn’t have to happen, as hoofing is a simple procedure that the individual farmer can practice and save his livestock the burden and pain of infections,” said Dorothy Laite another of the veterinarians.
Veterinarians advise those interested in hoof trimming to first understand the correct shape of the hoof. The bottom of the hoof should be flat and parallel to the hairline at the top of the hoof.
“If you want to be precise in trimming the hoof, make sure you look at the hoof of a young calf of between 1 to 2 months. The toes of each hoof should be of equal length, with all four feet approximately the same shape. The hind feet are likely to get longer on the toes than the front feet, and may need trimming more often. Regular hoof trimming prevents hooves from over-growing and keeps animals walking properly.
“With just a well sharpened knife, and soapy water for cleaning the hoof you should hoof trim. Its tedious, because the animals might feel painful and uneasy, but you have to do it if you want them to rid them of any infections,” said Dorothy.
The veterinarians also advise on the right feed necessary for the overall growth and maintenance of healthy hooves. Copper, for example, is important for the connective tissue in the hoof and for strong horns in cattle, with animals suffering copper deficiency being susceptible to foot rot and hoof cracks.
Zinc allows for the production and maturation of the claw horn tissue Keratin while providing for rapid wound healing and tissue repair. These nutrients are largely found in animal salt licks.
Written by Bob Koigi for African Laughter
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