Sunday, September 9, 2012

Goat Hoof Trimming - No Job Too Large or Too Small

It was a busy weekend. I walked one entire development yard sale, did two loads of laundry, helped my daughters with homework in three subjects, cooked and cleaned up four meals...and trimmed the hooves of five goats (only two of which are ours).

I'm not sure how this happened - but somehow I am now the goat expert on both sides of our extended family - the person who takes the early morning phone calls when a goat has projectile vomiting (Obi, who ate rhododendron leaves), when you get a new bottle baby by default (sweet Rosie Lynn) or when your not-at-all-tame-but-very-large mixed-breed goats haven't had their feet trimmed in five years (FIVE YEARS!!!) and their misshapen overgrown hooves now resemble the horns of the other goats in the barn.

Again, I did not ask for this. Until less than half a year ago, I had never even had personal contact with the caprine species. Sure, as a nurse I'm used to the frequent questions about human health. Stepped on a nail? Child with a mysterious fever? Broken leg on a holiday weekend? I'll take your call. Grandfather with a heart rate of 30? Bare foot lacerated by broken glass in a scummy pond? Attacked by a stingray in the ocean? Small child jumping off an embankment onto an old mattress who fractures his ankle? I'm here for you. (It is a well-known fact that I never travel with my husband's relatives without a crate of first aid supplies; somehow they attract these bizarre injuries!)  Once I even gave advice about how to trim a rabbit's teeth (fingernail clippers or wire cutters work well). But goats? How did this happen?

Having learned (out of necessity) the art of hoof trimming mostly from the internet, I now apparently give lessons and treat difficult cases. A few months ago I helped my sister trim the feet of her unfriendly rescue goats - quite a stressful ordeal for all of us. This Saturday the girls went with me to see our other farming cousins and their new bottle baby Boer goat, given to them by a family who could no longer keep her in their garage. We had promised to assist with her first hoof trimming. Sweet little Rosie, who gleefully frolics around the yard inhaling grass, tolerated the procedure fairly well on my sister-in-law's lap (with Emily distacting her with pasta noodles).

That was easy - but then I was asked to have a look at Nibbles and Sabrina, two older goats who live in the barn, who were "free" goats several years ago and supposed to clear out all the weeds on the property - guess how well that worked out? Easily ninety pounds each and not at all accustomed to human contact, these two were a different story altogether. Wrestling these beasts to the ground in a dank stall of fetid hay and then going at their horrendous feet with razor-sharp cutters - it is nothing short of miraculous that any of us emerged unscathed (although by the end I was coated in damp bedding, rotted hoof tissue and goat excrement. I think I resembled one of those monstrous apparitions from a Tim Burton movie...picture a wild-haired Johny Depp but with hoof trimmers - and if you have no clue what I mean, go rent the movie "Edward Scissorhands"). At one point three other people were restraining a kicking animal while I hacked away, praying fervently that I wouldn't gouge out anyone's eye by mistake!

It was incredibly satisfying, however, to see the difference between "before" (huge curled-over hooves filled with stinky rot) and "after" (not exactly perfect, but certainly an improvement). I did that! These cousins also have two more giant horned goats who are both pregnant and in need of hoof care - but I took a raincheck on that one for now. That's an adventure for another day - maybe after the kids are born. Maybe next year. Anyone interested in becoming an apprentice? Plenty of work for both of us!

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