Although feeding and management have the most important short-term impact on hoof health, the role of genetics, although a longer-term influence, cannot be overlooked. Sweden has promoted breeding for healthy cows, maintaining high production for several decades. In 2006, a breeding value for claw health based on data recorded by hoof trimmers started to be included in the health profile.
Over the last few years, veterinarians at the University of Wisconsin have developed a plan to organize lameness recording and the recruitment of lame cows on small and large dairy herds. The basis for the plan is to clearly define and separate routine TRIM events from clinically LAME events.
Pasture rearing can improve hoof health, perhaps due to the change in the physical environment or to associated factors such as change in diet. Fewer cows become lame during the grazing season and cows kept outdoors are less prone to claw disorders than those that are housed indoors. Despite these advantages in hoof health, switching from indoor housing to pasture is not a practical option for many producers. But providing a rest period on pasture for lame cows may be a more practical option.
Researchers in Sweden investigated the long-term effects of different flooring systems on the weight distribution, contact area and contact pressure on the claws of dairy cows housed in a free-stall barn.
Laminitis refers to a condition that impairs the circulation in the horn-producing tissues of the foot (corium). The disease results in the hoof producing poor-quality horn, which leads to increased injury from concussion and other causes.
A study conducted on 18 Dutch dairy farms provides insight into how footbaths can go wrong.
At the 2008 Nova Scotia Dairy Focus conference, Roger Blowey, the prominent British hoof health veterinarian, described the 6 main factors implicated in dairy cattle lameness: calving, excess standing, free stall comfort, free stall bedding, heifer rearing practices and diet.
‘Bovine Laminitis and Lameness’ describes the anatomy of the bovine hoof and claw and the causes of lameness, including the importance of genetics, structural conformation of the leg and hoof, nutrition, management, cow comfort and facilities that minimize injuries.
Digital Dermatitis (DD), also known as Hairy Foot Warts, Strawberry Foot Rot, Mortellaro’s Disease and Rasperry Heel, has become the most prevalent infectious hoof disorder on many dairy farms. Dr. Paul Greenough, in his book ‘Bovine Laminitis and Lameness’ recommends treatment for animals infected with DD.
A study conducted at the University of Munich, Germany compared the effects of rubber-matted versus slatted concrete flooring on claw health and milk yield in loose-housed dairy cows.