HARBOR BEACH, Mich. (AP) - Gary Buchholz has made a career out of caring for feet all across the Thumb. But he's not exactly pampering people at a swanky spa.

Buchholz, owner of Buchholz Hoof Care of Harbor Beach, has been in the business of caring for the hooves of area cows for 26 years.

Buchholz said he started out working for his next door neighbor, who was a hoof trimmer, for five years. After that, he went into business himself, equipped with the knowledge necessary to be successful.

"There's no established apprenticeship, so to speak, for this industry," said Buchholz. "It's a lot of learn-as-you-go type thing."

Since going into business for himself, Buchholz has been making house calls to countless farms, caring for the area's cows one hoof at a time. During an average day, he will service between 60 to 90 cows, the Huron Daily Tribune reported.

Buchholz said he does mostly maintenance to keep the cows healthy, but also fixes "limpers," — cows that have some type of hoof issue that is preventing them from walking properly. He explained a comfortable cow will stand and feed longer, and in turn will get larger and produce more.

"When we think of trimming our own nails, we only think about trimming the end of them," Buchholz said. "But with cows, the bottom of the foot is more important than the actual end."

To do his craft, Buchholz utilizes a tilt stable, which picks the cow up into the air and tilts it onto its left side, with all of the feet sticking out for him.

"That's how I control the animal, so I don't hurt her and she don't hurt me," he said.

Then, equipped with a pair of special carbide cutters, he will go to work on a set of hooves. Other tools of the trade include hoof knives for digging work in between hooves and into sore spots, and a computer program that he keeps detailed information on each herd.

"I actually enjoy running the actual grinder, when I'm actually shaping the foot," Buchholz said of his favorite part of the job.

During this process, Buchholz will reshape the foot, put the proper tilt to it — doing his best to keep everything entirely consistent.

He said the most difficult part of the job is when he is unable to help an injured cow. At that point, he feels bad for both the cow and the owner.

"The hardest part for me is when I know I can't fix one," he said.

More often than not though, Buchholz is able to get the job done, which is why he has been in business for well over two decades.

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