Milk Loss from Hoof Lesions

By Steve Mason on

Many studies have demonstrated that lameness reduces milk production. Examples are summarized in the table below.

CountryDescription of production lossReference
France440 kg for early lactation; 270 for mid- to late-lactation lamenessCoulon et al., 1996
Finland1.5 - 2.8 kg/day two weeks after diagnosisRajala-Schultz et al., 1999
USA1.5 kg/day two weeks after diagnosisWarnick et al., 2001
UKup to 2 kg/day for up to 5 months before and after diagnosisGreen et al., 2002

Although lameness may be caused by skeletal injuries, pain due to various hoof lesions is by far the most common cause. But which hoof lesions are associated with the greatest milk losses? UK researchers compared the effects of specific hoof lesions on milk loss over complete lactations of 1,824 cows (34.9% lame with at least 1 hoof lesion) in 30 dairy herds.

Monthly test day milk yields of cows with hoof lesions were compared with yields of their herdmates that were unaffected by lesions, from 5 months before until 5 months after lesion detection and treatment. Cattle that developed sole ulcer (SU) and white line disease (WLD) had higher milk production than their unaffected herdmates in the 5 months before lesions were diagnosed. After diagnosis, their milk production fell below the average of the unaffected cows. The estimated lactation milk loss attributable to SU and WLD was approximately 570 and 370 kg, respectively.

In cattle that developed digital dermatitis (DD) there was no significant difference in milk yield compared with unaffected herdmates before or after diagnosis but DD cows did produce more milk after they were treated.

The effect of specific hoof lesions on milk production from 5 months before until 5 months after lesion diagnosis and treatment. The horizontal line in each graph is the average daily milk yield of herdmates with no detectable lesions.

The full research report that was the source of this article is here.

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