Like most businesses, ST PIERRE HOOF CARE started out like most hoof care businesses 26 years ago. I was 39 years old, managing the family farm and constantly worried about the financial aspects of farming and the stress related issues affecting both my mental and physical health.
Fate intervened when our local vet suggested providing Hoofcare services to other dairymen to supplement farm income. The concept of preemptively trimming cow’s hooves to prevent lameness was just getting started and we had already built our own chute. While I was not a professional by any means, my vet observed my work and thought that I was good enough to at least give it a try.
Being the oldest of a very large family, I was able to get away from the farm from time to time to find customers and slowly pick up clients, knowing that the farm work was being covered by other family members.
I soon realized that my future would be hoof trimming. After about a year I was joined by Eugene, one of many brothers and we trimmed as a team. We were soon working with many of the large dairies in our area. After several years, As fate would have it, Eugene found the love of his life in Minnesota and moved away. To my good fortune, my son Michael graduated from High School that same year and opted to go to work with his dad! 20 years later, we are still a team and continue to work well together.
As the business evolved, so did the complexity of our equipment. Hoof trimming is not an easy job and as the size of our herds increased, we needed to find ways to handle the ever-increasing daily work load. Most farmers are by necessity great innovators, as they learned to fix things themselves when money wasn’t always available. Thankfully I had developed some good fabrication and welding skills during my many years as a farmer. Our first table was a one-cylinder machine with a winch that was used to pull the table back up onto the truck at the end of the day.
After about 6 years of trimming, I decided to build a new table with all the bells and whistles I could think of. In 1999 I bought a new F550 and spent 6 months building a new chute. I worked evenings and weekends often till 10 pm at night. The final product featured 11 hydraulic cylinders. We recently added remote leg restraints and are up to 15 cylinders.
I like to tell the story about the salesman for my truck giving me a follow up call 5 months after I had purchased the truck to ask how I liked it. He was a bit surprised when I told him that I didn’t know since I still hadn’t drove it out of the yard!
My story about a family business doesn’t end here. When I first started trimming, it soon became apparent that we needed a source of hoof blocks. Using hoof blocks to help cows heal from injuries had just become a major improvement to hoof care. It happened that my dad was retiring from farming and liked to do wood working projects. We were soon making our own blocks. In my spare time I enjoy working with computer spreadsheet design and web page design. I designed a web site for our business and started advertising blocks for sale.
We soon had enough business to justify employing my daughter Tara to make blocks full time. We soon added other hoof care products to our retail operation.
We now have my daughter Jessica working the office and sharing the duties with my wife Gail. It is Truly a “family business”. In recent years we have added a full-time employee and we currently sell close to 200,000 blocks annually.
they say necessity is the mother of invention. I agree 100 %. Trimmers use a special two-part epoxy to glue the wooden blocks to the hooves. The problem is that it works best at around 70-85 degrees Fahrenheit. It does not flow well through the mixing tips at cold temperatures and it weakens the glue if it gets too warm. I retrofitted a sturdy plastic tool box with a heating blanket, fan and thermostat. I recently added a universally adjustable glue gun cradle to accommodate different style glue guns currently available. It soon became a popular item on our website.
Another issue for trimmers is keeping knives sharp. When I started trimming I was frustrated with the results of using chain saw files to sharpen my knives. Thanks to the internet I was able to find a belt sander small enough to take to work. I was also able to find the perfect sanding belt combination that made sharpening so much easier. It wasn’t long after that I began giving hoof knife sharpening demonstrations at hoof trimming conferences all over the country.
The sharpener has been a popular item on the website for over 20 years and continues to grow in popularity.
The internet can sometimes be a blessing and a curse. Finding things to sell online to hoof trimmers is one thing, making a profit isn’t that easy. The benefit of the internet for me was that I could sell products to everyone in the country without much investment in infrastructure. The problem of course, is that everybody else can do the same, and the competition can sometimes make it not worthwhile to sell certain products. Hoof knives are an example. There are so many companies selling knives that the profit margin is almost nonexistent. So one day I had this crazy idea, what if I made my own knives to sell directly to customers on my website? I could set my own prices and make a reasonable profit. Just out of curiosity I went online to learn about knife making. Sure enough, I was able to learn enough to start making knives. It’s not easy for sure but over time the process has improved, and we now offer a unique product that has developed a following of its own.
As this unique family business of ours continues dawn the road into the future, we hope to continue doing what we do for a long time. Things will change eventually, as I will need to find a partner for Mike and train other family members to build the unique hoof trimming products we now offer. Thanks to lessons learned from being part of the dairy industry and to the advantages of the internet, we hope to continue our family business adventure way into the future.
Thank you for visiting our website and feel free to call, message or email us if you have any questions or thoughts on how we might improve our website.