Ark Veterinary Centre

Lameness– how it’s affecting your herd

Oct 15, 2019

Nobody wants lame cows! On average lame cows are suffering daily for an average of 135 days. There is increasing awareness and focus on mobility with pressure from processors and consumers but financial factors alone are a good enough reason to look at your herds lameness prevalence. The national average prevalence for herd lameness is 31%- this figure hasn’t altered for nearly 15 years, is this slow progress acceptable? The biggest impact of lameness is on fertility. Lame cows do not show strong oestrus, have an increase in calving to first service interval and increased calving to conception interval. The conservative cost of these extra open days can range from £30-£125. Lame cows have a lower first service conception rate (18% versus 43%), and are 9 times more likely to require an above average number of services. The increased cost of extra semen straws and the increased risk of needing multiple synchronisations are also associated costs.

There is a wealth of evidence from around the world on the negative impact of      lameness on milk yield. The cost of a lame cow to a farmer is between £85 and £270. If a cow is never lame, there is an increase in their 305 day yield by 324kg– so prevention is worth £100. 
What can you do to tackle lameness? The only way to know your herds lameness prevalence, is to mobility score your cows. 

Once you know your herds prevalence you can implement an effective management plan. In the practice we have two ROMS accredited mobility scorers, Iain and Billy. Cows are scored from 0 (sound) to 3 (very lame). Mobility scoring usually is undertaken during milking while watching the cows leave the parlour. Screening the herd every month will generate lists of cows for treatment. Cows are extremely good at masking early signs of lameness. Therefore, by the time they show obvious lameness signs the disease is often advanced and her productivity will have been seriously impaired for several weeks. This is why it is important to identify lame cows as soon as possible with mobility scoring and treat them, to prevent them reaching the advanced stages of disease. 

Digital Dermatitis and Foul in the Foot  The main risk factor for these diseases developing is slurry. You need to minimise contact with slurry to tackle these diseases. Narrow passages and/or infrequent scraping increase slurry build up and infection risk. Poor quality scraping leads to areas of stale slurry and poor drainage leads to pooling of dirty water.  Claw– horn lesions (sole haemorrhage, sole ulcer and white line) Routine foot trimming will impact most on reducing these type of lesions. Other risk factors include cows standing for >2 hours per milking, over stocking, poor cubicle comfort and poor cow handling. 

Early detection and treatment is the key to getting the best results and is based around four success factors:  1. Low infection pressure  2. Good horn quality and hoof shape  3. Low forces on the feet– good cow comfort and cow flow  4. Early detection and prompt, effective treatment of lame cows

Talk to us about implementing a strategy for tackling lameness in your herd.