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.
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.
To examine the influence of their hoof trimming strategies on hoof health, herds participating in phase 1 of the Alberta Dairy Hoof Health Project were classified according to whether they did whole-herd or partial-herd trims. On farms with partial-herd trims, prevalences of the most common lesions were higher than on farms with whole-herd trims.
Researchers at the University of Nottingham, UK have shown that untreated sole hemorrhage, sole ulcers and white line lesions can lead to excess bone development at the caudal end of the pedal bone, resulting in chronic lameness.
To control digital dermatitis (DD), M2-stage lesions need to be treated as soon as possible after they are detected. Waiting more than a few days for the next time the trimmer is scheduled to visit will never get DD under control. Several studies have examined the accuracy of DD detection in the milking parlour compared with lifting feet in a trim chute. Results suggest that inspection of heels in the parlour using a simple mirror and headlamp is a viable option for routinely monitoring DD lesions.
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin reported that heifers with pre-partum digital dermatitis (DD) had lower milk production, poorer conception to first service, longer days open and were more likely to have multiple cases of DD. Those researchers recommended that a DD control program should be a priority for pregnant heifers. But before a control program can be implemented, a reliable method of detecting DD in these animals is required. At the 2016 Western Canadian Dairy Seminar, University of Calgary graduate student Casey Jacobs described how she used ‘pen walks’ to detect DD in pre-calf heifers.
Zinpro has recently released a new book and app dealing with beef and dairy cattle hoof health. ‘Cattle Lameness: Identification, Prevention and Control of Claw Lesions’ is a Zinpro-led industry effort to assist cattle producers in improving animal wellness through the prevention of lameness.