Top Tips to Reduce Lameness in your Herd

July 27, 2020

At Terra NutriTECH, we are dedicated to helping farmers improve the health and welfare of their herds. ‘Lameness’ in cows of great concern to farmers at this time of year. A lame cow is quite unproductive and can be in a great deal of pain. By limiting lameness in the herd, your farm will have better animal welfare, more production and better farm profitability. 

Lameness is one of the biggest challenges that dairy herds face. It is also one of the most costly conditions or diseases to treat in a herd.  

An Irish study suggested each case of lameness can cost the Irish farmer in the region of €300. An average of 20% of cows in an Irish dairy herd can be affected by lameness. The main losses associated with lameness are typically milk loss and its impact on reproduction rates. Any animal in pain will have reduced dry matter intake and increased stress.  

Here are eight steps to tackle or prevent Lameness in Cows 

  1. Make a diagnosis and take notes 

The first step when dealing with lameness in the cow or at herd level is to see what is causing the lameness. This will influence how we treat and then focus on future prevention. 

There are two main causes of lameness; physical injury or infectious agents. Farmers must lift feet of lame cows and try and record what the cases were and the treatments given.  

By identifying what the causes are, we can really start zoning in on effective ways of reducing lameness. 

Most lameness is in the foot and in pasture-based systems, most lameness tends to be as a result of physical injury. 

The three main conditions seen are 

  • Sole bruising (haemorrhage) 
  • Sole ulcers 
  • White line disease 

The main infectious agents tend to be digital dermatitis (Mortellaro) or fouls (fusobacterium). 

  1. Utilize Mobility Scoring  

To help us tackle lameness and make a diagnosis we need to be able to identify lame cows early and take action. A useful tool to do this is using mobility scoring. 

This is done by watching cows on the way into the parlour along walkways.

Watching out for simple signs of lameness.  

In the chart below we outline some of the symptoms and categories that can be used: 

  1. Early Effective Treatment 

After mobility scoring the herd early and effective treatment is another pillar to good lameness control. The hoof is a very sensitive part of the anatomy. With very soft sensitive structures contained in a hard outer shell. This means inflammation that becomes chronic or long-standing is very hard to reverse. 

So act early and carry out proper treatments. Every farmer should carry out hoof trimming training. It allows you to respond quickly to that lame cow. 

The use of blocks and pain killers will greatly help also, with good treatment outcomes.   Just like physical lameness, infections like Digital Dermatitis will respond better to early intervention and early treatment.  

  1. Take the Pressure of Cows 

A cow is a slow-moving animal of prey. This is an important thing to remember when we interact with the cow. When we push cows too fast she won’t pick her step, with her head up she is more likely to land on that stone and cause damage to the sole. When we push cows in grazing systems and roadways we can really see an increase in sole issues. 

In collecting yards, we also must ensure we have space and good cow flow. Where we see an increase in white line disease we can see issues with cows not having enough space and poor cow flow at milking time. 

So be patient with cows on roadways and in collecting yards. Reduce lameness by giving them space and time

pica, cow minerals, smart farming
  1. Take Pressure off the Foot 

The environment the foot is in can have an impact on the disease found on the claw and hoof. Cows should have a daily time budget where they will require long times laying down and ruminating. 

Cows don’t generally stand around idling. They are either feeding or lying. Where we have cows standing for a longer period, we can put increased pressure on the cow’s foot. 

Also, the surfaces cows walk on can be very important in relation to increasing the risk of lameness. Keep standing time to a minimum at milking and ensure roadway surfaces are good. High traffic areas like milking parlours and feed faces can be fitted with rubber to take the pressure off the hoof.  

  1. Regular Foot Bathing 

Foot bathing can be part of a lameness control plan. They are particularly useful where you have high-risk times of the year like when cows are indoors.  

There are some key things to get right with your footbath. We must ensure that we have good cow flow through the bath. Placing the bath in a position after milking where cows will move through at their own pace. 

Have a step up and a smooth surface on the bottom of your bath. It should be 10-12 feet long and carefully work out your dilution rate. 

The top three footbath solutions tend to be Copper Sulphate, Zinc Sulphate and Formalin. 

Make sure the baths are changed regularly and topped up regularly. The level of frequency of bathing is down to the amount of infection pressure in the herd. They are very useful when controlling fouls and digital dermatitis 

  1. Good Mineral Supplementation 

Healthy hoof skin and tissue are important to minimize lameness. We can help your cows and herd by ensuring supplementation with some key minerals.

  • COPPER is very important for tendons and hoof tissue 
  • ZINC for healthy skin and hoof tissue production 
  • BIOTIN also is shown to reduce cracks and white line disease 
  • IODINE is also said to play a role in the reduction of lameness issues 

At calving time managing CALCIUM is important to prevent limb laxity and lameness issues in older cows. 

Our customers have reported really good results from our lameness products. We have seen massive reductions in lameness and improvement in hoof health. 

lameness, hoof health
  1. Taking Action 

The most important part of any lameness control program is to take action. Don’t accept lameness as part of the course, it will have a huge impact on profit and performance. Identify what type of lameness is affecting your herd. Put a good control strategy in place that allows you to chose prevention over cure. Talk to the Terra NutriTech team about how we can help with lameness in your herd. Healthy feet, healthy cows and happy farmers.  

Farmers can use mobility scoring where they watch cows passing and mark out lame cows. You will be looking to see how lame and maybe what leg. 

When we have lame cows separated it is good to lift the affected legs to see what is causing the lameness. This will help us find out why it might be happening and also put a better control plan in place. 

How Terra NutriTech have taken action to aid Lameness

We have worked with a number of our clients the last few years with lameness. While we never say our minerals can fix a lameness problem, we have seen where they have been used in conjunction with other actions, farmers have witnessed significant results. 

Think about big factors that lead to lameness both mechanical and infectious. With mechanical lameness we have found with our zinc supplementation helps horn growth and produces harder healthier hooves. Also with zinc playing a role in skin health and immunity, a cow’s foot is better prepared for infections like ‘Mortellaro’.  

Our products help the skin immunity and the quality of the hoof horn produced. If farmers combine this with some proactive lameness control you will see significantly happier cows and healthy feet.   

MAINTAIN HC (HOOF CARE)

Benefits

  • Helps with claw health
  • Hardens hoof
  • Decrease Lameness

Ingredients

  • High Levels of Zinc blended with Copper, Selenium and Cobalt

Sizes & Dosing Rate

  • Available in 20kg and 200kg
  • Dosing ratio 10mls per head per day

Talk with our Team Experts

Please call Ronan on 087 7086714  to find out about using the Terra NutriTech Automated Mineral Dosing System. Get in touch with our nutritionist team to learn more about liquid mineral supplementation and find out how your farm can benefit. Invest in your herd today!