Hoof care resources
Lameness is at the top of the list of animal-welfare issues in the dairy industry today. According to researchers in the Welfare Quality® project, farmers estimate about 5% to 10% of their dairy cows suffer from lameness, while the average is closer to 25% of the herd. This means an estimated average loss of €200 ($285) per cow, per year.
There are plenty of resources to help farmers and advisors tackle lameness problems. The Welfare Quality® project has developed a programme for use by dairy farmers who wish to reduce the level of lameness in the dairy herd. The programme is outlined below. Several other resources from different parts of the world are listed at the end of the article.
1. Diagnosis – what is the problem, how big is it, which cows are affected?
You need to know what conditions (lesions) are causing your cows to be lame – for example, sole ulcers and digital dermatitis have different control strategies. Whether you already know this will depend on the quality of your existing records. If you have no records, we suggest examination of cows’ feet by a vet or foot trimmer. This should include all the current lame cows in the herd, and possibly some which appear “tender” on their feet and may be developing the early stages of lesions.
You also need to be aware of the scale of the lameness problem. We recommend scoring the whole milking portion of the herd for lameness, recording the identity of the lame cows so that they can be treated.
2. Risk assessment – what is causing the problem?
Once the main lesions have been determined, it is time to consider the risk factors which may be contributing to causing the problems. This can be done in a very detailed way, using the full risk assessment form, or in a less formal way, by considering the general areas of management likely to influence the main problems.
3. Action plan – what can be done about it?
Once the risks have been identified, start to consider what could be done to reduce or remove the risks. Make an action plan with specific points. Follow it!
4. Monitoring – is progress being made?
The situation needs to be regularly monitored, both to record progress, and to become aware of any changing situations. Quarterly locomotion scoring and a complete review annually are recommended.
Download the Lameness Control Programme (pdf)
or visit the Healthy Feet web site where you can find this programme and other good resources to set up a lameness control programme.