Eliminate causes of cow lameness
Published 17/08/2010 | 05:00
WHETHER you put it down to the time of year, the recent spell of wet weather, cows walking further as a result of available silage aftermath etc, there are a few more lame cows than there was a month ago. But do you honestly know the true causes of the lameness on your farm?
For some farmers this is a small number and of no real concern but, for others, it is a sizeable problem and will need more attention than just foot paring. Are more than 7pc of your cows in one year lame (ie, more than three cows for a herd of 50)? If you answered yes, then there is a lameness problem in your herd. If you're expanding, it's even more important to rectify such a problem as increasing cow numbers will put extra pressure on existing facilities and cows, which commonly results in an increase in the incidence of lameness, increased costs, increased time required for treatment and loss of production.
Essentially, consideration needs to be given towards a treatment and prevention plan. Lameness is not an easy problem to fix. There is never one solution, and problems vary from farm to farm.
If you have lame cows, treatment is obviously the initial step. Early intervention is critical to avoid economic loss and also for animal welfare as she is likely to be restless, will eat less and rapidly lose body condition. Before treatment, you need to identify a lame cow and which foot she is lame on. Locomotion scoring can be a simple and effective tool for assessing whether a cow is lame and its prevalence in the herd at any one time.
There are five different scores from one (normal) to five (severely lame). Put simply, a cow should have a flat-back posture when she is standing and walking. If it is arched then she has some degree of lameness. To identify the lame foot, a simple rule is that, when a cow is walking, if she is lame in the front foot she will lift her head when she puts the lame front foot down. In reverse, if she is lame in the back foot, she will drop her head when putting down the lame back foot, and will also have a smaller stride. The next step is to determine the cause of the lameness in the cow. Around 85pc of lameness in dairy cattle is in the foot -- and lesions are generally responsible.
Lesions can be divided into two groups: infectious (digital dermatitis and footrot are common) and non-infectious (common claw-horn lesions are white line, sole ulcer or bruising, and interdigital lesions).
A key point when treating a cow is to record the incident and type of lameness as trends can identify what's causing it and aid its prevention. For example, white line is often caused by pressure and poor cow flow, causing twisting and turning of the hoof, especially when on concrete and often a fault of incorrect cow herding. Another is sole penetration caused by poor roadway surfaces, gravel on concrete, long tracks and abrasion wearing flat soles.