He's been doing it professionally for more than two decades, but Dan Martin still gets strange reactions when he tells people what he does for a living.
“[People's reactions are] all over the board,” Martin said. “Some people say, 'You mean you trim cows feet?' They can't believe it. And they say, 'How often do you trim them?'”
Just about any day of the week, you'll find Martin and his portable tilt table, at a midstate dairy farm trimming hooves and looking for trouble.
“[Trimming] used to be done only for sore feet, or to get cows prepared for a show. But, now, cows are being done to prevent problems,” Martin said.
With the help of a pneumatic lift, Martin's one-ton clients are gently turned on their sides, so he can safely trim, sand and inspect their hooves.
“Some days I do 60 [cows], some days I might do 20. It depends on how many cows they have and how far I have to drive,” he said.
Some of the cows need a little encouragement to enter the unfamiliar chute while others amble right in. But, once secure, they tend to relax for the ten minute procedure. Cows with problem feet require extra time and attention. Sometimes, artificial devices are needed: a bovine version of corrective shoes.
When you tend to nearly a thousand milking cows, hiring an experienced hoof trimmer makes good business sense, said Dale Brown, dairy manager at JoBo Holstein Farm.
“Making milk is all about alleviating stresses. And good hoof help, helps them stay on their feet and eat. And when they're all standing at the bunk eating, they're making more milk and we can make more profit.”
And with instruments cleaned lift secured, Martin is off to tend to the next herd — and their hooves.