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?
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.
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.
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.
Dr. Ernest Hovingh, an Extension Veterinarian at Penn State University, has contributed 2 excellent webinars on dairy cattle lameness. Both webinars extend from details of hoof anatomy to best management practices aimed at promoting hoof health.
In an interview with the veterinary journal InPractice, renowned dairy hoof health specialist Roger Blowey discusses cattle lameness and current thinking about the causes and control of digital dermatitis (DD).
According to Dr. Nigel Cook, achieving a high level of herd performance and controlling lameness go hand-in-hand.
“You cannot manage your herd successfully unless you manage lameness,” he said. “It undermines everything you try to do. It impacts the way the cow behaves, the way she walks, the way she eats, the way she rests. It impacts reproduction and increases the risk for early removal.”
In a survey of 22 intensively managed, high-producing commercial dairies in Wisconsin, Cook compared lameness prevalence to that of cows kept primarily on pasture.
A study by researchers at Cornell University examined the association between claw horn lesions and the thickness of the digital cushion. Results suggest that thin digital cushions, related to low body condition score, may be a factor in the development of sole ulcers and white line lesions.