Managing Lameness In Dairy Cows

Read our tips for managing lameness in dairy cows.

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This list has been compiled by vets and farmers – but always with cows in mind!

Mobility Scoring, Early Treatment, Cubicles and Cleanliness

  1. You can never treat too early. Early foot lesions can progress quickly, leading to increased discomfort, pain and more serious mobility problems which are harder and more costly to treat. Early intervention is key and will reduce the likelihood of chronic, non-responsive lesions that may lead to culling.
  2. Mobility scoring should be carried out ideally fortnightly and at least monthly, and is an essential part of a lameness control programme. A formal mobility scoring process will enable the detection of far more cases of early lameness than just casual monitoring. We have ROMS (Register of Mobility Scorers) accredited scorers if you need them.
  3. It is always beneficial to treat pain. Apart from being a significant welfare issue, lame cows suffer the effects of pain and inflammation in many different ways, including fertility issues and reduced productivity. On top of this, lame cows are at higher risk of incurring other injuries as a result of an unstable gait. Effective pain relief and anti- inflammatory medicines can have a significant positive impact.
  4. If cubicles are not comfortable, not big enough or too few in number, they can lead to increased lameness in the herd, either due to increased standing times or injury sustained in and around the cubicle. The AHDB housing guide has some good advice on cubicle design. Think about lying times too – do your cows have enough time in their day to spend 12-14 hours lying down?
  5. Keep it clean – infection spreads rapidly in dirty conditions, so limit foot exposure to mud and slurry. Consider how effective the yard scraper is, repair any hard surfaces that allow pools of slurry to develop, and avoid overstocking. The feet also benefit from being kept dry, and reducing exposure to saturated pastures can prevent horn damage and slow down the spread of infection.

Footbaths, Cow Tracks, Patience & Positivity

  1. Don’t rely solely on footbathing for digital dermatitis control. Regular footbathing and daily disinfection of feet is important, but feet need to be as clean and dry as possible in between times too. The best footbath in the world won’t control dermatitis if cows spend most of the rest of the day ankle-deep in slurry, and a dirty footbath can spread infection and make the problem worse.
  2. Consider cow tracks – they can be good for feet and can help extend the grazing season. As with footbaths, though, they need to be done properly. A bad track can do more harm than good. See AHDB’s Cow Tracks guide for some good advice.
  3. Maintain an appropriate body condition score, ensure good transition management and minimise negative energy balance. Remember – thin cows go lame and lame cows get thin.
  4. Encourage patience during herding – cows that aren’t rushed can pick their way round stones, wet surfaces and uneven ground, so are more likely to avoid injury.
  5. Farmers who believe they can control lameness are most likely to be successful. Researchers found that the farmers who realised the impact lameness had on their business, and accepted that they needed to do something, were the most successful in reducing lameness on their farms. Those who blamed bad weather, poor nutrition or other external factors tended to experience more persistent lameness in their herd. So be confident, ask for help and take positive action.

Article sponsored by CEVA. Learn more about the Wave Goodbye To Pain campaign.

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