Farm Ireland

Tuesday 24 April 2018

Avoid lameness issues in stock

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

Lameness in the dairy herd is one of the biggest costs on any farm, resulting in a reduction in milk yield, reduced fertility, premature culling and additional labour.

The average cost per lame cow is around €300, including treatment costs and production losses associated with a lame animal.

According to Pfizer, lameness is a common problem on Irish farms, with the average incidence in dairy cows at 20-55pc.

The major causes of lameness in dairy animals are:

•Laminitis: An inflammation of the sensitive horn- producing area of the foot;

•White Line Disease: Resulting from penetration of the sole by sharp material(s), for example stones, chips and nails;

•Sole Ulceration: Caused by abnormal weight distribution on the foot. Frequently seen in bulls, it is also a significant problem in dairy cows around 2-4 months after calving;

•Mortellaro (Digital Dermatitis): A contagious condition appearing as a red sore that develops between the claws of the feet.

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•Foul-in-the-foot or footrot: Precipitated by wet unhygienic conditions, not only with housed cattle but also at pasture during the summer.

Vet Ger Cusack, from the Comeragh Veterinary Group, Co Waterford, issued guidelines for minimising on-farm lameness.

•Regular hoofcare of at-risk cows.

•Promptly treating lame cows.

•Breed for good feet.

•Maintain good walking and standing surfaces whether at pasture or housed.

•Footbathe with formalin/ copper sulphate regularly.

•Avoid aggressive handling or driving of cows. Allow cows to pick their steps.

•Good cubicle comfort (big enough cubicles, good access and exit, bright and clean).

•Ensure feed changes, especially around calving, are gradual and avoid any abrupt dietary changes.

•Keep records of lameness cases and cull chronics or repeat offenders.

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