College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) Dairying Technologist Dr Alastair Boyle discusses lameness in the dairy herd.
Achieve healthy feet in the dairy herd through regular mobility scoring, prompt treatment of lameness and implementation of preventative measures.
Lameness in dairy cows is a welfare issue as lame cows are likely to be suffering pain.
Lameness also costs money, with the average cost of a case of lameness approximately £323.
- Production losses such as cows producing less milk per lactation (200-600 litres);
- Increased time to get in calf (20-40 days);
- An increased risk of being culled.
It is critical that a programme – which promptly detects and treat lameness cases – is set up on a dairy farm to reduce the problems associated with lameness.
Lameness in the dairy herd: Mobility scoring
The first step is detecting lame cows early in lameness development, with one such method being mobility scoring. Cows are scored on a scale of 0 to 3 based on their mobility, with 0 being good and 3 being a severely lame cow.
The aim when scoring your herd is to focus on identifying cows scoring 2 (moderately lame), or 3 (severely lame) and prioritise these cows for treatment as soon as possible.
Research has shown that using mobility scoring will reduce the severity of incidences and improve recovery rates among moderately lame cows when they are detected early and treated as soon as possible.
It is important to remember that generally, cows do not go from being not lame (score 0-1), to severely lame (score 3) immediately. They will be moderately lame (mobility score 2) for some time.
This allows you to take action before any further deterioration occurs.
We mobility score the CAFRE dairy herd once per month. Following this, we schedule any cows with a score of two or above for foot trimming/examination ASAP.
Prevent and treat lameness
Here are the key strategies necessary to manage lameness with an emphasis on prevention:
Early detection and prompt treatment
- Identify lame cows via mobility scoring using whatever means;
- Promptly treat score 2 cows before they are severely lame;
- Record the cow number, date and hoof disease diagnosed/treated;
- Follow up treatments if required.
- Use preventative foot trimming at key times during lactation;
- Footbath the entire herd regularly, including dry cows;
- Ensure good cow comfort and hygiene within cow buildings with non-slip flooring, no sharp edges etc.;
- Maintain cow lanes to grazing paddocks, well compacted, with no sharp stones.
Discuss the benefits of implementing an effective lameness management programme in your dairy herd with the local CAFRE dairy development adviser.