by Lorraine Strenkowski
Richard Weingart grew up on a dairy farm in North Franklin, CT. In 1986, after his father’s decision to take advantage of the government’s buy-out program, Richard, 27 years old at the time, found himself a farmer without a farm. In keeping with his agricultural background, Weingart sought out and apprenticed with a hoof trimmer. You might think ‘horses’ but this trimmer was strictly dealing with cows. After two months of actively pursuing his goal, Weingart felt confident enough to continue on his own.
Years ago this craft was more commonly used for show herds; perfecting the look of a quality cow was of utmost importance. Trimming has now gravitated to the everyday herds that serve small markets to the large and commercial.
“Preventative maintenance,” says Weingart, “keeps a cow in balance. Most lameness is in the hoof rather than the leg, and usually the hind rather than the front.”
With hooves in proper shape, the feet and legs help keep hips aligned. A cow can then feel free to lay down, stand at a feeding station, and walk with ease and confidence. This all adds to the health and productivity of the animal. Comfort and stability are a top priority in any herd.
With awareness that there was very little literature about the trade, Richard became a member of the “Hoof Trimmers Association” (established in 1990), and sat on the board from 2007-2011. As a member, he takes the responsibility of educating himself, and in turn educating others.
During his 27 years as a hoof trimmer, Richard has upgraded his portable trimming unit five times. Today’s truck is a complete facility including portable fencing and a lay-over chute, custom-built directly onto the frame. He constructs a corral and chute to advance the animals into the “lay-over.” Lay-over chutes were designed for the ultimate comfort during a trim. A cow is gently blanketed and supported with a thick rubber mat around her middle, which holds her in place as the hydraulic mechanism lays her over, bringing all four hooves up to working level.
A chipper wheel is then used for the trim. This high powered tool allows the user to “shave” off small bits of the hoof at a time. Longer toes ultimately mean overgrowth and ideally the hoof should be left 3 1/4 inches or more from the hairline. Richard also carries a small tablet downloaded with a “Hoof Supervisor” program. Secured to his fencing for convenience, Weingart punches up the identification number on the cow’s ear tag. All information, including the date of last trim, appears on the screen. A cut away diagram of the interior of a hoof with each chamber numbered allows the trimmer to see ongoing problems he documented in the past, and easily add current or uprising issues.
Richard has a large client list and generally covers eastern Connecticut, accomplishing an average of 50 trims a day, a far cry from his starting out point of approximately 11. His years of experience have put him at ‘mentor’ status. He has trained two of his brothers, nieces, nephews and young farmers from the area.
When asked about the future of the trade, Richard sees a new age when each farm will be equipped with their own permanent trimming stations. “Less time consuming and more cost effective!”
Eastern Connecticut’s hoof trimmer
by Lorraine Strenkowski