Moving the Neck Rail Helps Lame Cows Recover

By Steve Mason on

Neck rail gait score

A study at the University of BC showed how neck rail placement affects cows’ ability to stand in their stalls. Cows were housed in pens with stalls having neck rails ranging from 130 cm to 190 cm from the rear curb. As shown in the graph on the right, the closer the neck rail was to the rear curb, the more time cows spent ‘perching’ (standing with only the front hooves in the stall) and the less time they were able to stand with all 4 hooves in the stall.

Since earlier results had demonstrated that standing in the alley increased the risk of lameness, a second trial was designed to evaluate the effect of neck rail position on gait scores. For 5 weeks, cows were housed in pens with neck rails at either 130 cm or 190 cm from the curb. Neck rail positions were then switched and the cows were observed for another 5 weeks. Cows were gait scored weekly using the UBC scoring system in which cows with perfect gait are scored 1 and severely lame cows are scored 5; scores of 3 or greater indicate clinical lameness.

Hooves in Stall

Standing behaviour was similar to that observed in the first trial. The graph on the right shows how gait changed over the 5 week periods tested with each rail position. When cows were housed with the neck rails at 190 cm, gait score improved; at 130 cm, gait score worsened.

Although 13 new cases of lameness were recorded over the 10 weeks, only 2 of these occurred while cows were in pens with the neck rail at 190 cm. As might be expected, stalls in these pens were more likely to become contaminated with feces and urine; however, there was no increase in the number of clinical or sub-clinical intramammary infections.

source: D. Weary & M. von Keyserlingk, University of BC

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