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.
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.
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.
Non-healing (nh) bovine hoof horn lesions, characterized by penetration of the horn capsule and association with white line disease (nhWLD) and sole ulcers (nhSU) are frequently encountered in dairy herds endemically affected by digital dermatitis (DD). Lesions of this type are associated with more severe lameness, often leading to claw amputation or slaughter and they respond poorly to standard DD treatment. Researchers in Austria recently described a successful therapy for such lesions.
Results of a recent trial in the UK demonstrate that the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medicine in addition to a therapeutic trim and supporting hoof block produced the highest cure rates for sole ulcers and white line lesions.
Three new factsheets address the causes, prevention and treatment of each of the 3 most common dairy cattle claw lesions: digital dermatitis, sole ulcer and white line lesion. The factsheets are written in plain language, designed to help producers deal with these lesions.
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.