Lameness in dairy herds is one of the most prevalent challenges dairy producers face. While clinical lameness can lead to premature culling, subclinical lameness can cause pain over a significant period of time and lead to reduced performance in addition to animal welfare challenges.
The prevention of lameness is not a one-step solution, but requires management of several different areas within the cow’s environment. In a recent Diamond V webinar, Dr. Nigel Cook with the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine suggested five tips for avoiding lameness issues:
- Make cows comfortable. Create a deep bedding pile that allows cows to stand and lie down in comfort. Keep the bedding dry and as manure-free as possible.
- Treat animals outside the pen. Working with animals in headlocks can be hard on their shoulders and legs. Use palpation rails or a chute to treat or examine animals.
- Limit time on grooved concrete. Standing on grooved concrete for long periods of time, especially at the feed bunk, can be hard on hooves. Using rubber flooring improves comfort and could extend feeding periods.
- Keed feed accessible. Whenever cows have to strain through headlocks to reach feed it adds stress to shoulders, legs and feet. Push feed up regularly so it is easy to reach.
- Revisit trimming techniques. Regular trimming is important to maintain hoof health. However, avoid trimming the axial wall and adjust trimming techniques to suit the cow’s needs.
Cows need strong feet and legs to walk to and from the parlor, stand at the feed bunk, and perform any number of regular functions. Any discomfort will lead to an aversion to accomplish these tasks. Not only is this a considerable animal welfare challenge, but it also significantly reduces productivity and could ultimately lead to premature culling. Taking steps to create an environment where cows can be comfortable is a critical move toward maintaining strong feet and leg structure.