Although he’s recently turned 67, retirement is a foreign concept to Ray Kneeland. The Martensville-area man has been a cattle hoof trimmer for 40 years and has no plans of quitting anytime soon.
“Many years ago I learned that if you’re doing what you like, you won’t work another day in your life. I’ve always loved animals — particularly horses and cattle,” he says.
Kneeland grew up on a farm near Stettler, Alberta, enjoying the work involved in helping on his parents’ dairy farm. Shortly before he got married in 1968, he felt he needed to acquire a trade. “I’d been working on ranches and decided to take a six-week welding course in Calgary. I started working as an apprentice welder in my hometown, but after three weeks, I knew it wasn’t my cup of coffee,” he says.
When a family friend, a cattle hoof trimmer, needed help, Kneeland went to his assistance. Within a year, Kneeland had purchased his own tilt table and launched out on his own. “In the early 1970s the Simmental and Charolais breeds were coming into the country. The equipment I had was good for animals up to 2,000 pounds, and I could see right away that if I was serious about this business, I would have to get something better.”
Kneeland built his own tilt table in 1970, and in 1972 he constructed the hydraulic tilt table he still uses today. “When you’re doing up to 7,000 animals a year, you want things to be working pretty good,” he says.
Kneeland started his hoof-trimming career in the Bengough area of southern Saskatchewan. This is ranch country and because these animals spend most of their lives on the range, very little hoof trimming is required.
He and his wife then moved to Whitewood where he worked mostly on purebred cattle. By this time Kneeland was the only custom hoof trimmer in the province. In 1983 the Kneelands moved to their current location north of Martensville. The dairy business provided plenty of work, he says. “Dairies were keeping the cows indoors and pouring the grain to them for production. This really creates havoc with their feet because it causes abnormally fast growth, so there’s more demand for trimming.
“The biggest part of my trimming over the years in the beef section was show cattle. Farmers with purebred bulls or heifers going to sales often want their animals’ hooves touched up so they look good in the show or sale ring. In October and November I’m very busy trimming cattle for the fall cattle shows,” he says.
Several years ago Kneeland drew up blueprints for the heavy-duty hydraulic tilt table he constructed. “I’ve sold a lot of those plans over the years, including one to a guy from England.”
Has he had any on-the-job “exciting” circumstances over the years? “What can be terrifying to other people will be just ho-hum to me,” Kneeland says. “I grew up around cattle, and have always enjoyed being around animals. You just have to pay attention and know what you’re doing. Rodeo bulls can be pretty rammy.
“The heaviest animal I’ve done weighed 3,360 pounds. I can do 60 community pasture bulls — that’s just been a good day for me. At the end of the day, I’m feeling so good about what I’ve accomplished — I don’t even feel tired. I’ve never been seriously injured,” he says.
For the past seven years Kneeland has cut down to only doing beef cattle, so he can have the summers off. He and his wife Noreen host two high school rodeos every year on their farm, with all proceeds going to Telemiracle. They also conduct a week-long trail ride for Telemiracle. “Taking the summers off gives me time to do some other things I enjoy.”
For more information phone Ray Kneeland at (306) 933-1018.
Edna Manning writes from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan