How do you trim the hooves of a 1,200-pound Watusi bovine who could use her 5-foot-4 spread of horns as lethal weapons quicker than a snort? Very carefully – as was demonstrated last week at the yard of the Modesto Seventh Street Livestock Auction and Flea Market yard.
It took four men to successfully trim the hooves on Daisy, the rare 8-year-old African cow, which is a tourist draw for Sunday and Monday flea market crowds.
Trimming the hooves of typical cow is a less complicated process. Since Daisy’s massive horns don’t allow her to get inside a chute to be contained, she has to be carefully tranquilized.
“She could die from this procedure,” observed Livestock owner Lary Gremp before Wednesday’s procedure started.
The large star of the south Modesto venue was slowly feeling the effects of an animal tranquilizer administered by veterinarian Patrick Hawes.
“It’s like a mind-altering drug,” said Hawes.
In about 15 minutes the sedated animal was slowly brought to her knees, then roped over her wide horns with the other end tied to a metal fence pole. A second rope tied a rear leg to another metal pole on the opposing pen wall. A second shot further reduced her feistiness. When it appeared Daisy wouldn’t be rearing up and causing damage, hoof trimmer David Toledo and assistant Mike Toledo moved in. Under the watchful eye of Don Depree, a 50-year hoof trimmer veteran, David used a rotary power grinder equipped with special roto-clip dish as the chips flew in the pen.
Hawes explained why cows need their hooves trimmed. In a natural environment where cows forage for food in the wild, hooves are worn down by trodding over rough terrain. However, modern cows held in a pen don’t have the chance for movement that would keep hooves “trimmed.” He said hooves can grow so close together that they trap manure they walk in, causing infection. Untrimmed hooves can also force a cow to walk oddly and “break down the legs,” said Hawes.
As Toledo operated the trimmer and Hawes visually monitored her breathing, Gremp fetched a tape measure to measure Daisy’s horns. Each horn was a gnarled 42 inches in length and 17 inches in circumference near the skull.
“She knows how to use them,” said Gremp of the horns. “She knows she’s got them. She’s probably the smartest cow I’ve ever seen. Typically cows aren’t very smart. You can tell just by the way she responds to you. She has good days and bad days and you’re real clear on how she feels.”
Quick work was made of the trimming and a few hours later all was fine with Daisy.
The long-horned bovine has been “an attraction” for Gremp’s flea market, which he said attracts between 8,000 to 10,000 visitors on Mondays. He is trying to build up Sunday numbers from the estimated 3,000 visitors.
“People marvel at her and hundreds take pictures of her with their cell phone cameras,” said Gremp.
Next time they see her she will have nicer looking hooves.
The flea market also features a menagerie of other exotic animals, including “Nickel,” a miniature buffalo, “Mingo” a South American llama, “Helen,” a cross between a Zebra and donkey, “Omar,” A Zeby cow from South Asia, “Bo-Bo,” an emu from Australia, and “Bobby,” a miniature donkey.
Lary’s grandfather, Clint Thompson, opened the livestock auction yard at its present location in 1938. Lary and wife Luann took over in 1984. The Monday flea market was introduced in 1998 and two years ago Sunday markets were added.
The owners learned early on that animals can be a good draw for families. A 36-year-old horse that preceded Daisy was one “which people loved so we know people enjoy animals.” The horse died of old age and was replace by Daisy as the star attraction.
“Daisy is helping us to build it up,” said Lary.
Butcher cows are sold at the indoor auction daily but each week approximately 400 goats, sheep and hogs are auctioned off as well as thousands of poultry.