As a full-time trimmer since September 1973, I believed the popular theory in the school of trimming in which we did not block nor wrap – but rather we trimmed so we did not have to block or wrap. I did not get serious about either blocking or wrapping until the second Hoof Trimmers’ Conference in Batavia, New York, in 1997. By then I’d been trimming for 24 years. It was also my introduction to hoof anatomy and hoof mechanics. I bought a kit from Hoof-it and went back to trimming without blocking or wrapping. My greatest problem, besides knowing how to wrap or block, was knowing when to wrap or block.
Blocking for pain will generally prevent additional trauma and promote healing. Also, a properly aligned block restores stability for locomotion as well as reducing any pain.
As I started to introduce the process of blocking and wrapping to my methods, I realized it would require an additional charge, as it takes time. I was a bit anxious about applying a new fee with customers, so I gave the farmer the choice.
Generally, they opted for the blocks as the cost was low. Eventually, I became more confident with the fee and continued to integrate the process as digital dermatitis became more prevalent.
An abundance of new technology has been introduced into our market. I am now trimming with grinder wheels and the quality and availability of blocks and glues have improved beyond expectations.
It was difficult in the early years to find new methods to get blocks to stay on beyond three days. Early glues were temperamental and unreliable for reasons we did not understand, and even new glues require a clean dry level hoof to bond properly. But thanks to the companies in our marketplace, new technologies have been applied to these products.
But the biggest and most difficult hurdle was learning when to block. “We block for pain!” Forget everything else. If there is the slightest pain response on the bottom of a claw, the other claw should receive a block.
In regards to how to block, the hurdle I faced was learning that time cannot be wasted when using the epoxy glue guns since a film may develop, inhibiting the adhesion process. Of course it is also important to have a clean, dry, level claw.
To be effective, the block must be properly placed. A block placed too far forward is as bad as using a block that is too small.
Thus, a block must be of the correct size to cover the sole and to touch the ground, yet long enough to bring the toe to its proper position, keeping the sole parallel to the floor. We will sometimes allow for a rollover at the toe by angling the sole tip of the block at the toe.
In regards to wrapping, my latest practice is reflected in quotes presented by Ladd Siebert and Chuck Guard: “Do not wrap purulent discharge.” “You only wrap if you are trying to stop the flow of blood (hemorrhaging).” Abscesses with purulent discharge should not be wrapped because bandages or wraps restrict the drainage of the wound. Mother Nature is the greatest healer.
If we bandage, it is necessary that the bandage be removed between three and five days. Some reasons against wrapping include the fact that the bandage holds in moisture (promoting anaerobic bacteria), can restrict circulation and irritate the skin.
We wrap a wound to keep it clean and hold the medicine in contact with the hoof for a short time before it becomes contaminated and ineffective.
These were lessons that took time for me to grasp. Dairymen may want to see wraps, even if a trimmer feels it is not in the cow’s best interest. So block only to ease pain and wrap only when really necessary. PD
—Reprinted from Hoof Health Connection, Issue No. 68, October 2011
PDK Hoof Trimming firstname.lastname@example.org