Back to latest-news Lameness - not something to tippy toe around

Lameness - not something to tippy toe around

04 August 2022

If calving is followed by cow lameness for some of your clients, AgriHealth has created new tools this spring to help talk to them about what can be done to improve the situation.

Vets who attended a recent lameness management webinar run by AgriHealth heard that lameness is one of the most significant welfare issues in dairy farming not just here, but internationally.

Lameness also contributes negatively to efforts to rein in greenhouse gas emission and lift farm system efficiency, in part because lame cows produce less milk while still emitting methane.

Epidemiologist Winston Mason, from EpiVets, who is currently doing his PhD on dairy cattle lameness, explained how calving compromises hoof structure because it relaxes the suspensory apparatus that keeps the pedal bone in place within the hoof capsule.

That means the pedal bone can rotate and damage the sensitive corium, especially if weight loss after calving reduces the thickness of the digital cushion, which acts as a force dissipator.

“The good news though is we can mitigate and control some of these issues. Calving cows down at optimal body condition score, and making sure cows don’t lose a large amount of condition after calving will help to maintain the digital cushion.”

Limiting cows’ exposure to hard surfaces, particularly concrete, at or around calving also helps, he says.

The other big focus is on inflammation. When we think about this, it’s obvious that lameness is the cow’s response to inflammation of the corium, the live tissue in the foot. Early effective treatment with pain relief such as KetoMax reduces pain and inflammation, and aids recovery.

Vets can use a new hoof model from AgriHealth, which illustrates both a healthy claw and a damaged claw, to show their farmers what happens if lameness is not managed well, and the long-term effects this can have on the pedal bone, Technical Manager Steve Cranefield says.                                                                                                          

AgriHealth have also produced a lameness poster, which breaks down management into three steps. The first step is making sure we promptly identify lame cows, and help manage them.

The next step is prompt treatment, which includes the hoof trimming process, knowing what the lesions are and the use of pain relief. And the third step is having that conversation with farmers, so that we look at how dairy cows are managed and reduce further incidence of lameness in the future.

For more details on how vets can help, including solutions and farmer resources, please contact your AgriHealth Area Sales Manager.

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