October 27, 2022 at 4:42 p.m.
Internationally known for developing a method of trimming, LaVoy made a discovery that revolutionized the way hooves are trimmed. The moment of truth came for LaVoy when he began cutting open and examining cadaver cow feet. His outsider’s eye saw something not seen in the industry before. From there, LaVoy pioneered the balanced method of trimming – the goal of which is balanced bone structure and even sole thickness.
“You can’t just make feet smaller; you have to make them better,” LaVoy said. “Cows wear more evenly when trimmed according to the balanced method, which practically eliminates corkscrew claw and white line lesion.”
Originally from the Detroit, Michigan, area, LaVoy came from an autoworker family. After graduating from high school, he served four years in the military and, while in Japan, met a girl from Wisconsin. The couple returned to her home state and settled down near Appleton.
LaVoy had a job lined up that had nothing to do with dairy. But when his future boss asked if LaVoy could help her husband on his farm for a few days, LaVoy said yes. Little did he know, the temporary job on a custom heifer raising operation would fuel his life’s passion.
“I loved the work so much I couldn’t believe I was getting paid for it,” LaVoy said. “When they offered me a full-time position on the farm, I didn’t have to think about it.”
LaVoy eventually became the herdsman at the 1,000-head heifer facility and remained there for four years.
“We had a hoof trimmer coming, and I admired that job,” LaVoy said. “I’m an ambitious person, so I looked into it.”
On Thanksgiving Day 2003, it became clear to LaVoy that he wanted to become a hoof trimmer. Picking a less-than-glamorous job in an industry in which he had little experience, LaVoy chased after his newfound career ambition with a zealous heart. Before he had a single customer, LaVoy racked up $40,000 in credit card debt to purchase a brand-new trimming chute and pickup truck.
“Everybody said I was crazy,” LaVoy said. “Even my family thought I was nuts. I had no experience. The bank laughed at me, so I literally used high-interest credit cards to fund my business. I also took out a second mortgage on the house.”
Within three months, LaVoy was booked solid and had to turn down business.
“I studied under my uncle who was a farrier and a chiropractor – that’s key to what I do,” LaVoy said. “Trimming is about bone structure. I see the hoof and the bones. They’re two different things. If I didn’t get enough business, I thought I could be a farrier too.”
LaVoy also attended hoof trimming school where he learned the Dutch method of trimming.
“That method did not add up to what I was learning with horses,” he said. “I didn’t know what it was, but I didn’t feel right about it. So, I went and got a truckload of cadaver feet from a rendering plant. I wanted to cut the foot open and visually see on cows what my uncle was working on with horses. I needed to understand it.”
LaVoy began dissecting the feet to determine the impact of his trimming. Every time he cut a foot open, he did not see even sole thickness. Instead, the bones were leaning left or right. The fact the hoof was not balanced internally after trimming it the way he was taught was a mystery to the aspiring trimmer.
“The sole was not sitting even in the hoof,” LaVoy said. “It was thicker or thinner on one side, and I couldn’t wrap my head around it. I was staring at cut-open cadaver feet and ready to give up. Then I saw something with the bone and hoof and natural guideline and took a new approach to trimming.”
The method defied everything he had learned. The newly trimmed foot did not look the greatest from the outside, but when LaVoy cut it open, he saw perfectly balanced bone and sole thickness inside. It was the dawn of a new hoof trimming method that LaVoy would later call the balanced method.
“Nobody I knew was dissecting feet, but I thought, how else are you going to see what you did?” LaVoy said. “I wanted to keep learning and be better. There are so many trimmers in the Appleton area that I wasn’t going to make it if I wasn’t top notch.”
That March, LaVoy had a booth at the Wisconsin Public Service Farm Show in Oshkosh, and he left the show booked with business. He got one particularly lucky break when a farm with a good reputation took a chance on the newcomer with a shiny, new chute and no experience.
“Their hoof trimmer was behind, so I was going to help him catch up,” LaVoy said. “But then they realized I was fixing his cows. The farm was so well known I never looked for work again.”
Word of that farm’s new hoof trimmer spread quick, and LaVoy Hoof Trimming took off. His results spoke for themselves.
“I got criticized because the foot looked different, but different is not always bad – it’s just not what you’re used to,” LaVoy said. “Farmers were happy because they were having amazing results, such as better conception rates, higher milk production, lower cull rates and less lameness.”
Veterinarians, nutritionists and breeders began taking notice of LaVoy. Hoping to see similar statistics on the farms they served, these dairy professionals asked LaVoy to start training other trimmers.
“I didn’t like it because I was just trying to be a hoof trimmer,” LaVoy said. “But I did start training people, and things would get better at that farm, and the news spread like wildfire.”
When attending conferences, if LaVoy saw trims he did not agree with, he was not afraid to let people know.
“I told them if you trim like that, the pedal bone is going to be sideways and you’re going to have uneven sole thickness,” LaVoy said. “When people argued with me, I offered to cut open the cadaver feet I had in my truck.”
That is when the distinction in his business began and others in the industry realized LaVoy was doing something different. In 2014, he established Midwestern Hoof Care with a branch of Midwestern Hoof Trimming School. The school is a mobile education platform through which LaVoy runs hoof trimmer workshops and hoof care clinics in the U.S. and worldwide. LaVoy also does in-house training of trimmers and hoof care consultation and is a sought-after speaker.
“The balanced method is not rocket science; the hoof wall tells you where to go,” he said. “The bone and wall are perpendicular to each other, so if you trim a line perpendicular to that wall, you’re going to have even sole thickness and balanced bone.”
LaVoy has trained hundreds of professional trimmers from countless countries, and these trimmers often have more years of experience than their teacher. LaVoy trims within a 30-minute radius of his home, but his teaching radius has no limit. His work has taken him to Russia, England, Ireland, the Dominican Republic, Egypt, Germany, Scotland and Poland. Sometimes, the trimmers come to him.
“I’m usually teaching the pros, not beginners,” LaVoy said. “I hardly train anybody that’s as green as I was.”
Family is important to this father of six and grandfather of one who has two more grandchildren on the way. Therefore, LaVoy tries not to be gone from home more than one week a month. In addition to traveling the world training people, LaVoy also shares his hoof knowledge online through a strong social media presence.
Days filled with consulting and training leaves LaVoy with little time for trimming. Therefore, a full-time trimmer manages LaVoy’s business.
“I enjoy giving him a day off sometimes and trimming feet myself,” LaVoy said. “I also really like working with other hoof trimmers and trimming feet together.”
LaVoy’s customers range from commercial herds to show herds.
“My farms are on a strict maintenance schedule,” he said. “I don’t want lameness in my herds. I’m trying to achieve the lowest lameness possible and make it a rare thing. You’re never going to completely irradicate every single lameness issue, but it should not be normalized.”
LaVoy has seen the number of cull cows on the farms he works with drop from 10 per week down to 1.5 per week.
“I love working with cows and having a good impact,” LaVoy said. “I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”
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