Hoof trimming methods

Hoof trimming methods

Hoof trimming methods

There are various Hoof trimming methods but the most widely accepted method which has been most thoroughly researched is the (Dutch) Five Step Method. Other methods exist, but do not have a peer reviewed evidence base supporting their implementation. 

The function of hoof trimming can be broadly categorised into either preventative checks, or lameness treatments. 

An Overview of the Dutch Five Step Method

1. Trim inside hind claw/outside front claw to the correct length. Correct length will vary by age, breed, previous disease and, to some degree, size of animal. For mature Holsteins this could be 75-90mm toe length measured from where the wall goes hard at the top of the claw (coronary band). Remove excess sole at the toe to leave at least 6mm sole depth, sparing the heel and wall.

2. Match the other claw to the correct toe length by bringing toes up together in line. Balance the claws, but not at all costs as this may compromise horn integrity. 

3. Model (dish) out the both claws. The inner hind claw/outer front claw model should be conservative and just enable slurry passage between the claws. On the outer hind claw/inner front claw the aim of this model is to reduce pressure on the typical ulcer site. For the housed cow, the model will be considerable wider and deeper than for a grazing cow.  

For routine foot checks , these three steps will be sufficient if no lameness causing lesion is identified. Proceed to steps 4 and 5 when a painful lesion is detected (this may require hoof tester use, see below).

4. Alleviate weight-bearing from a painful claw. Applying a block to the sound claw is the only effective way of achieving this. Trimming down the back 2/3rds of the outside hind claw/inside front claw will aid block use.

5. Remove loose horn, especially around painful lesions and in the back 2/3rds of the outside hind claw/inside front claw. Most innocuous lesions should be left, especially in the toe region.

Video guides:

Tradition Dutch Five Step

Fig 1: Optimal toe length dependant on breed and age
Fig 2: Block placement can be complemented by dropping height from the affected region. Here we see a sole bruise on the outer claw of the hind foot.


Hoof Trimming Do’s and Don’ts

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it does highlight the challenges around routine and therapeutic hoof trimming.


  • Assess the mobility of the animal before trimming to understand the nature of the trim being implemented
  • Investigate the foot before trimming, make a toe length/balance assessment before removing horn
  • Spare sole thickness when working to improve foot angle
  • Take a deeper wider model at the typical ulcer site in the housed cow
  • Collaborate with the veterinary surgeon to ensure all treatment protocols are in the herd health plan
  • Select blocks based on the lesion type and environment in which the cow is managed, consider block placement to create optimal height difference
  • Ensure animals treated for lameness are re-examined 4-6 weeks post-treatment (depending on lesion)


  • Create thin soles by trying to promote foot angle (i.e. removing too much horn in the toe triangle)
  • Model into the toe triangle
  • Remove walls as a routine preventative measure
  • Create “white feet” by removing horn across the entirety of both claws
  • Leave spurs of glue around the blocks
  • Stray into acts of veterinary surgery, as soon as soft tissue is contacted, it should be a vet’s job!
Routine hoof checks can require very little horn removal, this is the front right hoof of a grazing cow, hence the conservative model on the inside claw