This page is intended to be a collection of advice and tips provided by ST PIERRE HOOF CARE and the users of this web site.  

Send submissions to: hoofcare@hooftrimmers.net 



New Categories of information will be added and sorted as this site is updated. Suggestions for "new" categories are also welcome.
Cow Handling Knife Sharpening and care
Working in cold weather working in hot humid weather
Table cleaning tips new table design ideas
Claw preparation for blocking best gate configurations
Angle grinder maintenance marking cows
record keeping applying wraps
equipment storage  protecting truck panels
indexing and cleaning wheels secure leg restraints
Working safely misc


Cow Handling

  • try to keep no more than 5-6 cows at a time in a close up corral. it reduces stress on the animals, the usually less than adequate gates and the hoof trimmer!

  • Avoid sending someone to round up another group of cows while you are still trimming in the vicinity of the holding pen.   every effort made to keep the animals calm will be rewarded over time.

  • For an extensive study of cow behavior go to this web site featuring Dr. Temple Glandin at http://www.grandin.com . For information most likely to be useful in developing cow handling skills, take this shortcut to Dr Glandin's site: http://www.grandin.com/references/new.corral.html

Knife Sharpening and Care
  • try using a 1x30 inch belt sander with a special 400 grit belt designed for this purpose. The  belts are available from the ST PIERRE HOOF CARE Online Store. The belts are more flexible than regular sanding belts. This prevents gouging while following the curve of the hoof knife.  The process has evolved into a two part system that uses a 150-220 grit belt to reduce the bevel and the 400 grit special belt to sharpen the edge.   Caution: wear gloves, safety glasses and go slowly. the knife hook will catch your belt and rip it in half if you are careless.  Follow this link to get more detailed instructions for sharpening knives with a belt sander.  HOW TO SHARPEN

  • Occasionally a knife handle will start to break up before the blades' usefulness is over.  Using  black electricians tape to hold the handle together is helpful but doesn't last long.  Try using 3M Scotch Brand strapping tape first and finish with several wraps of the electricians tape.

  • The easiest way to clean knives is to soak them in hot water for about an hour or longer and then brushing them clean under running water. Air drying overnight in a warm room is sufficient.  placing knives on a hot radiator is not recommended unless the knives are removed as soon as they appear dry.  Fast high temperature drying may cause the handles to fracture prematurely. 

  • new!Quick-temporary cutting edge restoration:   If you find yourself with a very dull knife towards the end of the day and have run out of sharp knives or don't have your sharpening equipment with you,  try this quick fix to get you by.   This assumes you have at least two knives on hand and both are dull.  take one of the knives in one hand, turn it over so that you are using the square edge of your blade, and not the cutting edge.  use this edge in a sliding, downward shaving motion against the cutting edge of your other knife.  It is similar to the action of scissor blades in motion. Do it on both sides of cutting edge several times.  This will not make your knife razor sharp but you will be amazed at how much it improves your knife's ability to cut again.

Working In Cold Weather
  • Cold weather is always a problem for both the hoof trimmer and the cow.   Cows have four legs but as soon as they walk on ice, it wouldn't matter if they had eight legs, they more often than not fall and injure themselves.  As for the hoof trimmer, the cold temperatures make it difficult to treat injuries when working with bandaging material and adhesives used to apply blocks or shoes.  The Hoof Trimmers Association Newsletter of March 2001 features an excellent article covering this topic. It has a variety of ideas ranging from custom designed heated trailers to heated tool boxes and coolers. 

  • If you are fortunate enough to have room for an extra aluminum undercarriage box such as the one in this picture CLICK HERE TO VIEW PICTURE you can convert it to a heated insulated container at low cost and is economical to keep warm.  the storage box is 19Hx18Wx48L. A shorter box would work equally well.  purchase a 4x8 sheet of 3/4 or 1 inch foil backed Celetex™ insulation board. (about $10.00) cut the top and bottom pieces first and glue in place with PL3OO($2.00)  or similar product used to glue styrofoam products.  cut the end pieces and back panel next and glue them in place. be careful to cut them for a tight fit as they will help keep the top in place if the glue should ever lose its grip. cut a piece for the door. you may have to cut several pieces and or make notches for the door closing mechanism.  don't worry about a tight fit around the door edges. adding a liner of 1/16 white fiberglass panel is optional as it has little insulation quality but does help protect your insulation.  You might consider covering the bottom only. a piece of plexiglass would work also.   next you need to add a short electrical outlet bar. (about $9.00) Mount the bar to small thin board and use stainless steel bolts to secure it to the back of the box at least 5 inches below the ceiling.  drill a hole where you want the lead cord to exit making sure to use conduit or other means to keep the cord from becoming frayed and dangerous.  buy a simple two prong converter that you can screw a light bulb into and plug it in to the outlet bar. Use a 100 watt rough service bulb.  keep the box plugged in overnight and when you get to the job site.  From personal experience, a 100 watt bulb will keep the temperature at 65 degrees when it is 0 degrees outside if you use 3/4 celetex insulation board.  one inch material would of course be even better. You could occasionally add a second bulb for colder days and/or to have  more heat.  Be careful not to place flammable material near the bulbs.

working in Hot Humid Weather
  • new!

Table Cleaning Tips
  • use a 6 inch sheet rock taping blade to scrape off heavy manure buildup before leaving the job site.

  • line your table with quarter inch high density plastic bed liner material.  it cleans up easier than steel or wood. 

 New Table Design Ideas



Claw Preparation for Blocking
  • preparing a hoof for blocking can be time consuming, especially if the outer hoof wall is heavily soiled and/or extra hard.  a used trimming wheel with dull blades mounted to a four inch economy grinder makes an excellent tool for cleaning the outer hoof walls without the chance of cutting too deeply into the horn. 

 Gate Configuration Suggestions
  • Most customers provide the gates necessary for creating small holding pens if a permanent one doesn't already exist.  Bringing your own supply of gates is cumbersome and involves a lot of clean up time between job sites.  Sometimes however, the customer doesn't always have just the right size you need, or you spend a lot of time waiting for someone to go get a different one.  One solution is to purchase a couple of four foot and 6 foot  gates of light or medium duty construction. Use ropes or small chains to tie them together in various arrangements according to your needs.  The ropes or chains can double as hinges if for instance you need to create a corner or a self standing gate situation.  The reason for using short gates in the first place is mainly because they are easy to transport and handle.  Most layover chutes and uprights can fit these gates inside the table for transport.  It works even better if you have a layover chute with a hydraulic belly strap arm which can be used to hold the gates in place. 

  • Some tie stall jobs require removing the cows from their stanchions and then bringing them back, sometimes without any help from the customer.  tie a 6 foot gate and a 4 foot gate together with ropes or chains as hinges.  Bring the gates together just enough so they stand up on their own. Place the gates just beyond the stall where a cow will return in such a fashion that she will naturally be directed into her stall.  Most cows know where their stall is but just can't resist the temptation to run up and down the barn a few times. This method isn't foolproof but it works most of the time.  An extra wide alley might require using two 6 foot gates instead of a 6' and a 4' gate.

  • new! Try adding a layer of "confusion" to the entry from the cow pen to your chute. Do this by adding gates to force the cow to make several turns before getting to the entrance of the chute.  By the time she realizes what has happened, her ability to turn and run has been reduced.  


 Angle Grinder Maintenance
  • cleaning soiled angle grinders with water is not practical. Wrap the angle grinder in a very moist towel or several moist shop rags for about an hour and wipe clean with paper towels. repeat if needed. use a stiff bristle steel brush on non plastic surfaces.

  • keep your grinders clean between farms by wrapping vet wrap around the grinder before each new job and replacing it before the next job. (keep the air vents open!)


Marking Cows
  • Orange seems to be the best color for visibility. 

  • Use twist sticks if available. They cost a bit more but you actually save money, especially if you have a tendency to break the regular sticks, which seems to happen quite often when in a hurry.

  • Marking foreheads is not always the best choice because cows sometimes head butt and exchange paint in the process. 


Record Keeping


Applying Wraps
  • Vet wrap and Coflex don't stick well in Cold weather.  Store wraps in a medium size cooler with a gallon of hot water in a used anti freeze container or something similar before going to work.

  • When opening a new wrap, stuff the plastic jacket inside the center of the roll.  It helps avoid a messy work area and makes it easy to handle clean up chores at the end of the trimming session.

  • new!We find that a Coflex wrap does not work well the next day after it has been opened.  Try to keep it in an airtight container at room temperature, or better yet, start the day with a fresh one!


 Storing Equipment


 Protecting Truck Panels


Indexing and Cleaning Wheels
  • place dirty wheels into a small pail with dish soap and hot water.  let soak for an hour and clean with a stiff bristle plastic brush under running water.  

  • use the small square end of a chain saw file to clean the manure and dirt from indexing screws.  works best also under running water.

  • keep a small can of 3 in 1 oil (any oil is fine) and put a drop on every screw before reinserting. The torq screw head will last longer.

  • blades that no longer do an effective job on soft free stall feet may still be useful on very dry, hard tie stall cows' feet.   working with dry hard tie stall feet sometimes leads to one or more shattered blades before the day's work is done. save money by recycling used blades.


Secure Leg Restraints
  • check out the HOOF GUY™ LEG RESTRAINT SYSTEM available for purchase from the ST PIERRE HOOF CARE Online Store. We have used a strap and modified vise grip system from day one of our hoof trimming operation thirteen years ago.  In February 2002, we developed a more robust clamping system for our straps. By popular demand we have decided to make it available for purchase. As of February 2003, the original restraints are still going strong on our chute which sees about 16,000 cows pass through on an annual basis. 

Working Safely
  • Make sure your gates are always well secured.  In the ten years I have been trimming, most of my close calls with injuries involved a cow jumping a gate and being too close to the action when the ropes or chains didn't hold up to expectations! 

  • Always inquire if their is a bull in the herd you are trimming.  Sooner or later most bulls will become too mean to work with and you could be the trigger that pushes the bull into  dangerous aggressive behavior, especially since you are a stranger and are messing with his "ladies"!

  • new!When a cow shows agressive behavior, try adding an extra gate inside your pen in such a way that you can get behind it as quickly as possible. Safety is ALWAYS worth the effort!


  • GOT HOOF?   When using a tilt table a cow will occasionally pull her front feet up under herself and refuses to put it back down, especially as she is tipped onto her side and her own body weight helps her keep it trapped.   At this point it is hard to grab any part of the leg for pulling purposes as usually you can only see the toes protruding from under her chest.  Take   your nippers and grab the end of the toe approximately where you would nip the toe anyway and begin pulling with a steady pressure. Eventually the cow gives up, all you need is a little "patience"!

  • When trimming the front feet on a tilt table, there is a tendency for the toes to squeeze together which makes it difficult to trim in between. Try putting short pieces of biodegradable material between the toe before starting. try using cornstalks, sunflower stalks, burdock stalks or similar materials.  use pieces about an inch long by 3/8 to 1/2 inch in diameter.  Place the stalk in between the toe and as far into the interdigital space as possible. When finished, you can leave the stalk in place and it will fall out when she starts walking.