"Even slightly lame cows are producing less milk" – how to identify lameness, in the early stages
Farmers are great at attending sick cows, but they may forget about the lame cows or allow the lameness to become too severe, according to Teagasc Dairy Cow Welfare Research Officer, Muireann Conneally, speaking at the recent Shinagh farm walk in Bandon, Co Cork.
“We all notice a sick cow, but lameness is a sickness of a cow in itself. It costs less money to treat them than it does to leave the lameness persist,” she explained, adding that catching the cow in the early stages of lameness increases the chances of recovery significantly.
“If you catch her before she really goes downhill, it will give her a far better chance of recovering and continue on milking. The way we identifying these cows is by mobility scoring.”
“Cows that are found to be severely lame, should be taken out and examined by a vet. With lame cows, you’re losing money, which you may not be able to see. Even cows that are slightly lame, they’re still producing less milk, explained Muireann.
Locomotion scoring or mobility scoring systems have been designed to assess lameness prevalence - the number of animals lame at any one time - in a given herd, according to Muireann.
These systems are useful in identifying the problem animals, assessing the severity of their mobility problem and monitoring the effectiveness of lameness treatments, she said.
The AHDB mobility score is based on six aspects of the cow's mobility and should ideally be used biweekly or monthly, to identify lame cows in the early stages.
“By using this system, we’re identifying cows which are getting lame before they’re actually lame which is key to recovery,” Muireann explained.