While a good hoof trimming program is an essential component of lameness prevention, poor trimming technique can create lameness. The Lameness Committee of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners (AABP) has produced a fact sheet aimed at helping veterinarians and producers to objectively assess a herd hoof trimming program.
Prevention of DD focuses on biosecurity, maintaining good barn hygiene and routine foot bathing. Treatment of DD infections is typically only done by hoof trimmers at their infrequent visits—usually by applying antibiotic and bandaging for a few days. But, because new infections can rapidly advance, early detection and treatment is necessary to minimize new outbreaks of active lesions.
Over the past few years, researchers at the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine have been working to develop a practical way to routinely identify and treat painful DD lesions in the milking parlour.
Identifying lame cows is the first step in dealing with the dairy industry’s most important animal welfare issue. How does lameness affect lying behaviour? Could continuously-recorded lying time be used to help identify lame cows?
The adoption of a standardized, computer-based system for recording hoof trimming data (Hoof Supervisor® – HS) has made it possible to collect and analyse that data for application in herd benchmarking and genetic improvement. To that end, a Canadian research project is in progress to develop a process for data interchange between HS-equipped trimmers and the national Dairy Herd Improvement (DHI) database and on to the Canadian Dairy Network, the national dairy genetics organization. The ability of trimmers to download DHI data in advance of a herd visit will also aid in the selection of cows to trim.
When troubleshooting lameness problems, I use a structured approach starting with locomotion scoring, lesion analysis and assessment of the routine hoof-trimming and lame cow surveillance program. I then examine the risk factors for each of the key hoof lesions and finish with a review of feeding practices. From this examination, we can create a herd specific action plan designed to maximize impact on the key hoof lesions on the farm.
The University of Calgary Lameness Research Team has been hard at work studying the use and effectiveness of footbaths on Alberta dairies.
While there is progress to be made in proper usage, the good news is: Results confirm that footbaths are an effective tool in decreasing the prevalence of digital dermatitis (DD).
I’ve been in the hoof care business for more than 22 years and the dairy industry all my life, and I believe farms think they are doing all they can to provide the environments for optimal animal welfare and comfort; however, the reality is: Our industry lameness average is still too high – estimated at 25 to 40 percent, depending on which study you want to quote.
Many believe that 0 percent lameness is not a possible or a realistic goal, but I am challenging every dairy to have more days with no lame cows than days with a cow with lameness issues. In this article, I propose a straight-forward three-step strategy to achieve zero lameness.
Although it is commonly believed that the primary cause of claw horn lesions in dairy cattle is rumen acidosis, resulting from the feeding of highly fermentable diets, there is no conclusive scientific evidence to support this idea. Recent research supports alternative explanations.
A comprehensive strategy for the control of digital dermatitis (DD) in dairy herds was presented at the 2016 UK Cattle Lameness Conference. The 5-point plan, which applies to young stock as well as dry and lactating cows, includes:
1. External biosecurity to keep disease out of farm
2. Internal biosecurity to minimise infection pressure on cows
3. Early identification, recording and treatment of clinical cases, in
association with hoof care
4. Frequent foot disinfection to reduce new cases
5. Defining and monitoring hoof health targets
Results of a study of 36 herds with automated milking systems in Québec, Ontario, Alberta and Michigan identified some of the main risk factors for lameness in those herds. The authors of the study conclude that, for the prevention of lameness, more attention needs to be be paid to providing free stalls of appropriate size for the cows in the herd.