Cornified Shoes

Cow Hooves (photo credit  Doug Powell)

Cow Hooves (photo credit Doug Powell)

Cow Hooves

Don't think I've forgotten about the larger animals.  Because, this week I'm writing about cow hooves.  Cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs are cloven-footed animals.  Meaning that the hoof consists of two digits instead of one solid entity like that of a horse. The two digits are analogous to the third and fourth fingers of the human hand. The claws are named by their relative location on the foot.  There is the outer or lateral claw and the inner or medial claw. In cattle, the lateral claw is slightly larger on the back feet, while the medial claw is the larger claw of their front feet.  The space between the two claws is called the interdigital clef; the area of skin is called the interdigital skin. The different surfaces of the claws are named according to their relative position to the interdigital cleft: The abaxial surface is the outer wall of each claw, and the axial surface is the inner wall.  The hoof is described from the outside moving in.  Beginning with the hard outer covering of the hoof, known as the hoof wall or horn.  The horn is a hard surface, structurally similar to the human fingernail, but functioning like the epidermis of the skin. The cells that form the horn are produced by the tissue directly beneath the hoof wall, called the corium, at the hoof head. The corium is a nutrient-rich tissue that contains many important blood vessels and nerves inside the hoof.  The corium is similar to the quick of the fingernail in humans in that it continuously produces new cells that are then gradually pushed away from the quick. As the cells are pushed away from the corium they die and produce the hard, new outer growth that we see both in our own nails and in hoof growth. At this point the cells are said to have been keratinized or cornified.  As a general rule, bovine hooves grow about 1/5 to ¼ of an inch per month.  Cow hooves also serve a purpose to humans also.  People have made them into soup, tools, and even shoes.  It’s not really my thing, but hey, creativity is good isn’t it?

To see real cow hoof shoes, among other things, click here to watch my video.

Course of Comfort

cow with frothy bloat

Cow with frothy bloat, photo credit

Observing Bovine Bloats.

And now for the much anticipated bovine bloat.  First, we will look at gaseous bloat.  Gaseous bloat is the result of improper digestion or fermentation of grain.  The way to relieve gaseous bloat is by passing a tube into the rumen or using a trocar and cannula to make an external opening in the rumen to release gas pressure.  The other type of bloat is frothy bloat.  Frothy bloat is caused by surfactants in legumes, trapping gasses in a bubbly foam.  The treatment for frothy bloat is to pump large amounts of mineral oil into the rumen via a tube to break up the bubbles.  Bloat must be treated quickly as the increased rumen size and pressure interferes with normal breathing.  There are also a few things you can do to prevent bloat.  The incidence of bloat in cattle grazing legumes can be reduced by maintaining at least 50% of the stand as grass.  Also, cattle should not be turned out onto a pasture with a high percentage of legumes when cattle are hungry or the pasture is wet. Although, once cattle are adapted to legume/grass pastures, they can graze it even when wet.  It is also a good idea to make sure not to give cattle too much grain, as they cannot digest large amounts correctly.  A final option is to use “bloat guard” blocks which contain poloxalene.  Acute bloat must be treated promptly. In the last stages of severe bloat, a few seconds delay may result in the animal’s death.  Plan with your veterinarian for emergency treatment for bloat before the grazing season. Equipment needed includes good handling facilities, a stomach tube or rubber hose about 3/4 to 1 inch in diameter and 8 to 10 feet long, a supply of defoaming agent, and a large trocar. If the trocar fails to relieve the bloat, as a last resort you will also need a sharp knife suitable for incising the skin and making an opening into the rumen.  In severe cases, a stomach tube can provide relief. If the tube doesn’t provide immediate relief, the defoaming agent will frequently break down the foam and allow large amounts of gas to release through the tube or by belching. The antifoaming agent can be added through the tube or through a trocar and bloat needle. Never drench a bloated animal. Fluid is apt to be inhaled during drenching, causing immediate death or pneumonia.  Chronic bloat caused by pressure on the esophagus due to muscle paralysis or other tissue pressure can be corrected by making a ruminal fistula. A veterinarian can surgically create a ruminal fistula in the left flank area to release excess rumen gases. Generally, these openings are about 3/4 inch in diameter. The fistula is designed to remain open for 1 to 2 months. During this time the swollen tissues should decrease in size and normal belching can resume. Normally, natural healing will close the fistula. If not, a veterinarian can surgically repair it.  Ultimately, you might want to look more into a preventative course of action as it costs a lot less than treating bloat after it happens, and also spares the cow discomfort.

To see what a trocar and cannula  look like, and more pictures of bovine bloat, watch my video at