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Cattle lameness – emerging information

Over the last three years we’ve been encouraging the use of anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) for common conditions faced by all farmers such as assisted calvings, downer cows, as part of mastitis treatments and when treating sick cows and calves.

We will prescribe KetoMax for use on-farm and you will see our vets also using MeloxiVet or Melovem and they may prescribe these for farmer use. MeloxiVet/Melovem have a longer action but unlike KetoMax, they have a milk withhold.

Lameness is another condition where KetoMax is the go-to-product in combination with trimming and the use of hoof blocks. The combination of the anti-inflammatory and pain-relief effects of KetoMax will shorten the time for recovery. Lameness has multiple factors – weather conditions, trace-element levels, track design, pressure being placed on the herd when bringing them to the shed or while on the milking platform.

The use of KetoMax is important as an aid for lameness recovery, however assessing the cause(s) of lameness on your farm is important in reducing the number of animals that require treatment in the first place.

A large European study is highlighting the effect of pregnancy and changes within the hoof around the time of calving and the effect this has on lameness. In this long-term study, heifers calving for the first time are given daily injections of NSAID (such as KetoMax) for three days starting within 24 to 36 hours after they calve.

The study indicated that when heifers were treated routinely at their first and subsequent calvings with NSAIDs as well as when they were lame, this reduced the lifetime probability of lameness, severe lameness and culling from the herd during the three-year study.

While still under investigation, the researchers hypothesise there are two effects occurring in late pregnancy. The first is that there is a thinning and remodelling of the digital cushion within the hoof and secondly this effect lowers the ability the digital cushion to absorb the loading on the hoof.

This additional pressure leads to inflammation which alters the structure of the last bone within the hoof. This alteration is seen as proliferations on the surface of the last bone which results in pain, and this leads to further damage.

By routinely injecting the heifers with NSAIDs at their first and subsequent calvings, the anti-inflammatory effect of the NSAID reduces the alteration to the digital cushion and thereby lessens the potential for damage to the last bone within the hoof.

We are being careful not to attribute all lameness to this cause, because of the many factors that may be involved, however the study’s findings are worthy of note, and we are looking at situations where this protocol has application.

Our vets are happy to discuss the applicability for your herd.