Farm Ireland

Monday 23 July 2018

One simple change can stop lame cows losing 400L of milk

Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

The average lame cow loses around 400L of milk (570L for a sole ulcer, and 370L for white line abscess), according to international expert Roger Blowey.

Blowey has spent over 40 years involved with farm animal medicine in Gloucester and Weybridge, specialising in lameness and mastitis in dairy cattle, and a range of health issues in pigs, and was talking at the Cattle Association of Veterinary Ireland (CAVI) 2017 Annual Conference.

He said that cows should be able to walk with their heads down so that they can see where to put their front feet. 

“Cows that are crowded and pushed, walking with their heads up, will get more lameness.” This also applies to collecting yards and backing gates. Make sure that the cows are not crowded. Often the next cows to be milked are at the back of the collecting yard, and they need enough space to move past higher ranking cows to enter the parlour.

Issues can be caused by weight-bearing and over-growth but also by general management issues on farm factors including feeding and body weight changes, he said.

He gave the example of calving time, when horn growth slows down and almost stops, but the rate of wear increases. 

Excess standing also causes problems, he said and that cows stand to be milked, stand to feed, stand to drink and stand for social interactions. The high-yielding cow has to stand to eat for some 6-8 hours per day and longer than this will be required if there is inadequate feed space (i.e. less than 2ft per cow). 

Roger said he is not in favour of cows being made to stand for half an hour at the end of milking.

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“They should be allowed to walk back past fresh food (or pushed up food) and if they walk past and want to lie down, then that is what they should be allowed to do. Milking times should be examined to make sure that cows are standing for the minimum time possible.” 

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