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March 22, 2020

Dairy cattle lameness and hoof health

World

 
March 22, 2020

Lameness affects animal health, production and reproduction. Cow lameness results in substantial economic loss. Economically, the consequences of foot disease are much greater than the treatment costs. Reduced milk yields, lower reproductive performance, increased involuntary culling, discarded milk, and additional labor costs account for the largest financial losses. Studies have revealed that lameness is one of the most costly health problems, at a cost of $90 per cow.

Lame cattle account for 70pc of all sales of non-performing cattle. Depending on the severity, body weight loss, decreased milk production, dry matter intake, herd longevity, and reproductive efficiency are mostly affected. Lameness can depress feed intake and predispose cows to ketosis, abomasal displacement, and other metabolic disorders like subacute ruminal acidosis. Conditions associated with parturition, mastitis, metritis, hard or poorly bedded stalls, too little exercise, excessive bodyweight and poor nutritional management predispose cow towards lameness. Ideally, the conformation of cow’s foot should be short, steeply angled and high in the heel.

Better management on the farm can reduce the frequency and severity of lameness in cows. Three broad categories would include facility management, nutrition management and hoof care. Dairy cattle confined to concrete and hard bedding have more chances of lameness. Properly designed and bedded freestalls will encourage cows to lie down and regurgitate. Cows lying down 10 or more hours are more satisfied with their environment and have fewer hoof problems. Confinement on hard surfaces can contribute to lameness especially if there is environment change, such as going from dirt or pasture to hard concrete floor. Sand bedding is more ideal than straw, hay, composted manure or mattress-bedded as the primary bedding material. Lameness in cows is five times more on concrete flooring. Flooring having sharp edges will contribute to foot injuries. Facility design should avoid sharp turns especially at congested areas. Properly designed and maintained freestalls can reduce foot and leg problems. Freestalls should be designed in a way that cow can easily enter, lie down, get up and exit. Proper nutrition management can lower the chances of lameness in a number of ways. Dairy cows need a consistent, balanced ration. Cows rushing directly from milk parlor to properly mixed fresh feed at the feed bunk having proper feed bunk space is the indication of better nutrition management. Rations that lead to acidosis are followed by lameness, when large percentage of diet of dairy cattle contains concentrates.

Hoof care is the final area as it is more than hoof trimming. Hoof care starts with good clean bedding, free from stones. Sprinkler speed and frequency should be properly adjusted to keep the surface dry as possible because wet flooring eventually leads towards hoof problems. Footbaths should be used to help control digital dermatitis when present on farms. Hoof care does also include both maintenance trimming and therapeutic trimming. One of the hoof trimmings should be scheduled early in the dry period. Proper weight bearing on the hoof wall is especially important. Although hoof trimming is stressful for cows yet regular hoof trimming can increase longevity of cows by one complete lactation at the farms.

Treatments can consist of hoof trimming, foot baths, and topical applications. Depending on the problem, a veterinarian should be consulted for best protocol of lameness. (Written by Dr Sajid Ali and Dr Muhammad Avais of University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences (UVAS) Lahore).