Treating injuries of the horn in lame cows

Cattle hooves can become injured due to physical factors like weight bearing. It is important to treat these injuries quickly to prevent further damage.

Back to: Treating lame cows

Start with foot trimming

Begin by following steps 1 to 3 of the Dutch foot-trimming method. Always correct toe length and foot balance before seeing to the problem. Take care not to take too much horn away by unnecessarily following black marks.

Take weight away from the injury

This is the main principle of treatment. For less severe problems, carefully trim around the affected area (often the back two-thirds of the outer hind claw) and preserve the sole and wall on the unaffected claw.

Find out more about how to correctly trim a cow’s foot

Block the unaffected claw if necessary

Most blocks require 3–5 mm of glue in order to set. Trimming alone is often insufficient to remove weight from the injury.

Find out more about how to block a foot

Remove under-run horn

Allow drainage so gravel and dirt does not get trapped in the pocket you have created. A white line abscess may have pus tracking back towards the heel, forwards to the toe or up the wall. A sole ulcer may have some loose horn around its base. With care, these injuries can be opened to allow drainage and get air to the injury.

  • Sole ulcers may have flesh protruding – carefully trim around this, but there is no need to cut it off
  • Avoid bleeding. Bleeding means you have cut into live tissue and created a new injury
  • Removing under-run horn to the point where it is firmly attached to the underlying corium requires care, time and skill. A blunt probe can help guide how much to remove
  • Digital dermatitis infection on the corium can occur and is thought to result in delayed healing or failure to cure
  • Exposing these lesions to air and treating with topical antibiotics is important
  • Give anti-inflammatory pain relief (NSAID) under veterinary guidance

Useful links

Foot trimming cattle to prevent and treat lameness

Treating lame cows

Lameness in dairy cows

How to block a lame cow’s foot

If you would like to order a hard copy of the Hoof care field guide, please contact or call 0247 799 0069.