Mani-pedi at the farm

Three of the mother cows needed their nails tended to so the bovine pedicure guy came over. He brings a fancy hydraulic portable gate and places it at the end of our chute.

Salers cows aren’t common in our part of France and this was the first time he’d worked on them. He’d never had a cow with horns like Big Cow in his gate so he took a photo something like this to show his buddies.


It wasn’t easy getting her in there. She had to be roped and then we pushed and pulled her horns to get them through the gate. It is a good thing Big Cow is a calm animal, although maybe being a cow of 18 gives you a calmer perspective on the world.


He could have used our chute to work on the cows but he gets the speed and control he needs from this hydraulic setup. You can see the Hitachi angle grinder with special cow hoof disk hanging on the back there.

You don’t want to have hoof problems since it costs to have the specialist come out. We have several cows from the Calvet family of Salers which give good milk but they also seem to be at higher risk of getting overgrown toenails.

Regular cleaning is one solution, but the only long term solution is to select the daughters of animals with healthy hooves to be your replacement heifers.

The other thing on my mind is horn shortening or removal. Big Cow’s horns are so long she always has trouble with the chute. You could cut 20cm off each horn and she’d be much better while still retaining her horns. And it would reduce the risk of me getting speared with the pointy end.

It makes sense to do that with the three or four cows that have trouble negotiating the chute not only to make life easier for us but also to make yard work less stressful for the cow.

Once you think about changing the horn length you can’t help but think about going all the way and removing all horns for the safety factor. It would be safer for me but sacrilege for the Salers farmers I know.

Here’s a farm in Northern Ireland with some very well conditioned Salers that get dehorned at three days. They look lovely even without the horns.

6 thoughts on “Mani-pedi at the farm

  1. Auburn Meadow Farm says:

    Dehorning adult cows is no joke. You’ll leave an opening direct to their sinus cavity… I struggle with this dilemma myself.

    If my cows would never leave this farm, I wouldn’t even consider removing their horns. I have not had one single incident to make me believe it is necessary. If a 1200 pound animal wants to hurt me, she doesn’t need a set of horns to do it.

    I do know however that many farmers fear the horns and will de-horn cows they purchase as adults. Should I proactively de-horn my heifers as calves so they don’t have to undergo this nasty and dangerous procedure? I risk losing buyers either way, but spare the cow the future risk of the procedure.

    I just can’t imagine the girls without their crowns – they are just not the same…

  2. matronofhusbandry says:

    Brent, good idea on the hoof selection for replacements. Years ago, we had several cows founder on cull carrots, which changed their hoof growth pattern to what horses hooves grow like after foundering. Subsequently all the heifers from those cows even years later had hooves that grew too much. We did not keep them. In dairy herds it’s common to see cattle hooves trimmed frequently due to the high grain feeding. Rather than going away from the high sugar diet, the industry has chosen to treat the symptom instead by making hoof trimming a regular and accepted practice.

    Horns can be a huge dilemma. We’ve struggled with the horn issue with the family cows because of the cosmic influence the horns have on the animal. For the most part I have always left the horns on my house cows until I got hooked in the back by my replacement heifer. Being fearful in the milking parlor isn’t a healthy way to live so rather than pass her on to someone who could get hurt, or dehorning her as an adult we butchered her. My new house cow was dehorned during the first week, and I like her without the handles to tell the truth. As for our beef cows, we breed for natural polling, and that is nice, no one gets hung up in the chute, or gores someone in the trailer on the way to the abbatoir. Personally I like the look of horned cattle, but I hate getting in close quarters with them.

  3. Zephyr Hill says:

    Luckily we’ve never had hoof problems, partly (I think) because we have a fair amount of stony ground. The guy that does my horses’ bare feet is always impressed that they can go a year without growing too long or cracking. I guess the cows benefit the same way from a natural trim.

    You know what I think about horns after having our first cow be a bit “horny” in the sense that she knows how to use them to keep us away. We did breed our heifer to a bull who’s only heterozygous for polled, and since she is the same, we have a chance of a horned calf. If we get one, we’ll have the vet dehorn it. We’ve avoided dehorning Sara because of the dangers of it, but we’ll be careful who we sell her to–not first-timers like us! 🙂

  4. bc says:

    Hello Jackie, just recently a friend of mine had an incident in a building where by chance a cow had her horn caught in his jacket and walked across a building dragging him along and into a pillar. It wasn’t an angry cow just a hazard of cows with longer pointy horns. Then the trouble getting Big Cow into the hydraulic chute is bringing up the discussion again.

    Some farmers suggest taking off the last few inches of the horns to remove the sharp end. Jean (my wife) wants to put tennis balls on the end of the horns.

    One of those castrator tools is supposed to be a dehorner, too. I forget the name, the big fancy one with the mega spear gun rubber band.

  5. bc says:

    Matron, curious how those hooves work. I don’t know how much you follow genetic research, but epigenetics is a very strange thing where adaptations to environmental conditions for parents can be passed on to offspring even though it isn’t part of the DNA by affecting gene expression. Cattle breeding is complex. It is going to take us a while to figure out this hoof problem. Luckily it seems to show up only on older cows so there’s some time there.

    Your thoughts on dehorning are close to mine, although I do have one question. How do you rope a dehorned cow? I’ve only ever worked with horned cows

  6. bc says:

    Susan Lea, that stony ground is useful! The cows we brought in are from stonier ground than here and this might be a factor in why a couple of them have nails too long. Anther factor could be the dietary differences between here and their previous farm. I have plenty to ponder there.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s