Lameness in Cattle

What is Lameness in Cattle?

Lameness in cattle 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.  

A  study suggested each case of lameness can cost the farmer in the region of €300. An average of 20% of cows 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.  

Symptoms of Lameness in Cattle

  • Cow is limping.
  • Cow is slow to move or tender on their feet.
  • Milk yield is down.

Causes of Lameness in Cattle

There are two main causes of lameness in cattle; physical injury or infectious agents.
Physical injury is the most common cause of lameness and is often found in pasture-based systems, in which the cow has to traverse distances each day to and from the dairy.
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).

    Problems from Lameness in Cattle

    Don’t accept lameness in cattle as par for the course, it will have a huge impact on your farm’s 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.

    Lameness in Cattle – Solutions 

    Early and effective treatment is crucial to good lameness control in cattle. 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. Act early and carry out proper treatments e.g. hoof trimming, which can help monitor hoof health.

    Reduce lameness by giving them space and time. Space for each cow in the collecting yard and in the dairy, and good cow flow, will minimise cow lameness. Don’t rush cows. 

    Take the pressure off the foot – 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.

    Regular foot bathing can be particularly helpful in preventing infectious agents. The foot bath needs to be 10-12 feet long, and the solution changed and topped up regularly. 

    Good Mineral supplementation will protect against lameness; 

    • 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

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