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Curly Toe Syndrome

A hoof condition in cattle called 'curly toe syndrome' or 'corkscrew claw' is painful to the animal and causes lameness. The outside wall of the hoof grows faster than the inside wall, causing the sole to be pushed upward. The tip of the hoof claw then rotates in an upward and inward direction.

Grant Dewell is a beef extension veterinarian at Iowa State University. He says this is a genetic defect of cattle, but there are other causes as well.

"Sometimes we develop bulls particularly on some pretty hot rations, trying to get their growth out of them, and that can cause some abnormal hoof wall growth," says Dewell. "Or if they're lame, one side will start growing faster than the other because they're trying to shift their weight off of one side. Uneven surfaces, concrete, and all that type of stuff makes them wear their hoof wall abnormally so they can make their hoof wall change shape just by the way they walk. So that's another thing we have to make sure of that that's not an issue."

If the cause is genetic, it won't be apparent when a calf is born. Dewell says a close exam of the feet may show a tendency, but it will take three-years or so for the hoof wall to grow enough for the corkscrew look. An animal with curly toe syndrome should have its hooves trimmed on a regular basis. This will take some careful planning.

"If the bull is supposed to go out to pasture in two-weeks, and I start radically changing what that foot looks like, then he gets lamer," says Dewell. "So, it needs to be done months ahead of time so that the bull can readjust, and learn how to walk again."

When buying cattle, Dewell recommends making sure the feet are sound. An animal with a genetic curly toe hoof should go to market, and its offspring should not be kept as breeding stock.

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