Max Boden’s bovine pedicures help bolster milk production at dairies
Story and photos by Dianna Troyer
Instead of appreciating a pedicure, certain Jersey girls fidget and kick. Others enjoy the attention. An occasional uncooperative attitude doesn’t upset certified cattle hoof trimmer Max Boden.
He takes it all in stride as he loads each 1,000-pound Jersey cow into a hydraulic elevated chute and tilts it. Secure and safe, a cow lies on her side while Max trims her hooves at Smith’s Cream Pitcher Jerseys— a dairy in Lewiston, Utah.
“The young ones going into the chute for the first time aren’t sure what’s going on,” Max says. “The older ones don’t mind.”
Since 2018, the Elba resident has been trimming cow hooves for appreciative dairy owners throughout southeastern Idaho and northern Utah.
“The hoof needs to be level and at a certain angle for the cow’s weight to be distributed evenly, so she’s comfortable walking around,” Max explains. “A cow’s hoof grows about 2 inches a year, so it’s important to trim them two to three times a year.”
Healthy hooves are critical to dairy owner Jackson Smith.
“If a cow isn’t comfortable and has some lameness, she doesn’t feel like eating and drinking, so milk production drops,” Jackson says. “Our cows’ hooves are in the best shape they’ve been in for years. Max does an excellent job.”
A cow’s hooves are done within three to five minutes. Max estimates he trims about 10 to 15 cows an hour, and about 100 to 120 in a day.
He comes to the dairy monthly to rotate through the herd of 1,600 cows. After trimming the hooves with a grinder, Max inspects them. If he finds an abscess, ulcer, dermatitis or foot rot, he trims away the infected tissue, then disinfects and wraps the hoof.
“If he finds a cow with a problem, he takes the time to fix it properly,” Jackson says.
Milk from Jackson’s dairy is made into Swiss cheese at the nearby Gossner Foods plant in Logan. Jackson says the milk from Jerseys is prized for cheese because it has high butterfat content of about 5% and high protein at 3.8%.
Max—who also works as a plumber—began trimming cattle hooves after a friend offered him the job. Max trims hooves in his spare time every Thursday and Friday.
“A friend had the business and got a job at a big dairy in southern Utah and wondered if I would buy him out,” Max says. “He didn’t want to leave his clients without a trimmer.”
Max’s slogan is “A standout from the herd hoof trimmer.”
Growing up on a family ranch near Elba, Max, 24, says he always enjoyed working with livestock and was willing to learn hoof trimming techniques. He completed a two-week certification program with Randy Hettinga—a professional trimmer and educator in Kuna, Idaho.
“I’ve really enjoyed learning about it,” Max says.
Trimming hooves has evolved considerably in the past 30 years.
“People used to use hoof knives and big nippers,” Max says. “Now, hydraulic tables that tilt are used, and the trimmers have carbide blades.”
Besides dairy owners, 4-H’ers rely on Max to trim their steers’ hooves to be ready for livestock competitions at county fairs.
“Whatever animals I trim, it’s always rewarding to see them walk away and be sound and comfortable,” Max says.