Bovine Lameness and Podiatry

Hoof wall and conformation abnormalities

Hoof cracks

What is it?

Vertical or horizontal defects in the hoof wall that destabilize the hoof.

How to recognize it?

Cattle may be lame, particularly with vertical cracks. Horizontal cracks do not cause lameness until a portion of the crack reaches the ground surface. Weight bearing causes it to chip off or peel away. This causes soreness when weight is put on the foot, levering the cracked wall into the sensitive laminae.


Vertical cracks may develop due to drying of the hoof wall, probably combined with more pounds/square inch (heavier cattle). Both genetic and environmental factors are likely involved.

Horizontal cracks develop due to disturbances in hoof wall growth (metabolic issues, fever).

How do you treat a hoof crack?

Many can be ignored if not causing issues.

Vertical cracks are debrided with a hoof knife or motorized burr. The hoof wall is stabilized with wire, umbilical tape or polymethylmethacrylate, depending upon the level of infection. A hoof block may be applied to the good hoof to permit healing

Horizontal cracks are treated by removing the cracked wall once it is causing lameness and is mostly grown out.

Corkscrew claws

What is it?

Corkscrew (screw toe, screw claw, curly toe) claw is a conformational abnormality that leads to weight being born on the side of the wall versus the solar wall, causing lameness.

How to recognize it?

Corkscrew claw is primarily seen in the hindfeet of cattle 3.5 years of age or older.  In younger animals, look for toes pointing inwards instead of forwards.

photo: Jake Geis


It is regarded as a heritable trait in beef animals. Affected animals should not be used for breeding. However, since the defect may not show up in younger animals, it may be missed initially.


Animals should be culled.


Lameness originating in the hoof of cattle, Cramer and Solano,

Diagnosis, treating hoof cracks in cattle, BEEF

Risk (Predisposing) Factors for Non-Infectious Claw Disorders in Dairy Cows Under Varying Zero-Grazing Systems, In Tech – Great pictures of hoof disorders, 2012

Brahman structure and lameness, ABBA, 2011

Corkscrew Claw, VCNA FA 2017; Volume 33, Issue 2, July 2017, Pages 351-364


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Large Animal Surgery - Supplemental Notes Copyright © by Erin Malone, DVM, PhD is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.