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Lameness in dairy cattle

Early spring often brings about the onset of lame cows and on some properties the problem can be severe.

Lameness poses a real challenge and affects cows in many ways. These include slowness of movement, depressed feed intake, decreased milk production, weight loss and decreased fertility.

Additionally, there is an increased labour requirement, significant financial costs, and an increase in replacements as severely lame animals are often candidates for culling and have poor repro performance.
Most of you will have by now addressed at least some of the farm issues that contribute to lameness. However, outcomes can be improved by:

  • Improving the identification of lame cows. Early detection leads to rapid recovery and prevention of irreversible damage. An animal with a lameness score of 1 out of 5 today will progress very quickly to the obvious 3 or higher out of 5. Recovery is far better when treated early.
  • Having trained staff that know how to deal with lame cows. We can train your staff. If you require veterinary or tech help, call us early!
  • Treatment facilities. Are they protected from rain, wind and have washing facilities that are easy to use? Treating lame cows is arduous work, hard on the cow, and on the operator. Better facilities lead to better treatment outcomes. Safety is paramount. Prioritise it.
  • Restraint. There are plenty of options out there. Having an adequate set up, such as a Wrangler or a Wopa cow crush, allows for safe handling and reduces trauma to the animal and operators. 
  • Hand Tools. The cheaper the meaner. Invest in top quality knives, trimmers etc. Keep them sharp at all times. Grinders are very helpful but make sure staff are trained. Use wrist protectors and gloves on the hand that supports the foot. It will help prevent serious injuries.
  • It is critical to minimise the pain a lame cow is under. The use of anti-inflammatories is highly beneficial to recovery. Use it every time you treat a lame cow and consider an extra shot the following day.
  • Hoof Blocks are a must. Together with pain control they greatly improve movement, feed intake and recovery.
  • Corrective trim + hoof block + 3 days of pain relief (such as KetoMax), has been shown to improve cure rates by up to 56% when compared to a trim on its own!
  • Antibiotics. These are rarely necessary in the treatment of lameness. If lame cows are treated early, it is unlikely you will need to use antibiotics in 1 out of 10 cows looked at.

In these tight times, protecting your future production is important; if you require more information please contact one of our veterinarians.