What is the main cause of lameness in Irish dairy herds?
It's not what you might think
Lameness prevention is receiving renewed focus as a management issue across many dairy herds in Ireland, according to Ger Cusack of Teagasc.
At this year’s national Dairy Conference he highlighted that the cost of a single case of lameness has been estimated at approximately €300 (UCD Herd Health Group), which comprises €50 in treatments, €100 direct production loss, €100 extra culling costs, and €50 on fertility/other costs.
However, he said the intangible costs of extra workload (‘hassle factor’) and compromised cow welfare are often of more immediate concern to dairy farmers experiencing herd lameness problems.
Cusack said a recent study of spring calving herds carried out by Teagasc estimated, using the AHDB cow mobility scoring system, a lameness prevalence of 4pc in the spring period.
Cows in the same study were 10 times more likely to show reduced mobility in the autumn period.
Cusack said overall lameness rates compared quite favourably with lameness incidence in confinement-type systems.
Interestingly, Cusack said when lame cows were inspected further, over 95pc of hoof lesions were mechanical (bruising, white line disease, ulcers, overgrown digits) as opposed to infectious (mortellaro, foul in the foot) in nature.
“This indicates that the priority factors to be addressed for grazing herds are related to infrastructure and managing cow flow around milking times,” he said.