Cows that become lame drop in milk production, have more reproductive problems and increased labour costs. It is estimated that 15% of cows are culled due to lameness. However lameness may contribute to reproductive failure and increased reproductive cull rates, further increasing this figure.

The prevalence of lameness is often under estimated by producers. In a British study, dairy producers estimated that only 5.73% of their cows were clinically lame, while independent observers estimated that 22.11% of the herd was clinically lame.

 What steps should we take to reduce lameness?

Using the Mobility Scoring system is a fast and relatively accurate way of determining the prevalence and severity of lameness on your farm. The mobility score uses a four point scale 0-3. A cow with a score of 0 will have good mobility, will walk with weight bearing rhythm on all four feet and have a flat back. A cow with score 3 will show uneven weight bearing on one or more limbs and will have shortened strides, often with an arched back.

An understanding of the types of lameness and a structured approach to tackle underlying causes is required to avoid cases getting severe. Here at Roadhead we have literature and DVD’s to train your eye, to help you identify problem cows earlier, saving you both time and money.

Along with good management practise, it is imperative that the nutrition is also correct in the diet. The body condition score of the cow is directly related to the thickness of the fat pad on the sole of the foot. A thin fat pad will mean a cow has less sole protection and is more likely to get sole bruising than a cow in body condition 3.

Proper nutrition management can lower the incidence of foot problems. At Roadhead we adjust both the ration and the mineral spec of our blends to reduce the incidence of lameness on individual farms. Our rations are balanced for calcium, phosphorous, and vitamins A and D for good bone and tissue health as a preventative measure. Other nutrient supplementation we use come from zinc and copper and which are imperative for a hard and healthy hoof.

The first 100 days post partum is when cows are at greatest risk when energy intake may be limiting, the coronary bone becomes more flexible due to the relaxing of the ligaments around it.

Lameness depresses feed intake, predispose cows to ketosis, increase incidence of displaced abomasum’s and other metabolic diseases.

Mark O’Sullivan