Lameness Causes & Prevention

Lameness can often involve many factors that combine to cause severe problems. These factors are difficult to avoid, but the effects should be minimised as far as possible to ensure the optimal, most comfortable situation for the cows. A successful producer will create a cow environment that minimises stress, competition for feed and water, and the potential for injury and disease. The main influences on hoof condition are the environment, management, nutrition, toxicity and other miscellaneous factors, all of which – particularly when combined – complicate the task of both determining the cause of lameness on a farm and the preventative measures to take.

The risk of spreading infectious hoof diseases like DD is high in a herd, especially those that are housed. Once you have DD in your herd, it is extremely difficult to eradicate – nearly impossible in fact. But there are things you can do to help limit the spread. Keeping cows in the driest possible conditions, for instance, will limit both the spread of infection to other animals and also the susceptibility of cows to get this or other infections. Hard, dry hooves provide good protection from infection and injury, whereas hooves that are constantly damp absorb moisture and soften, making the sole more likely to be penetrated and damaged, and the corium bruised. Sick animals should be separated where possible from the main herd until the infection has died down, and preventative measures such as foot trimming and toot bathing or spraying can be used to keep infectious hoof disease levels to a minimum.

It is always difficult to know if newly bought cows are healthy or not, and this can be a huge problem for farmers who unknowingly introduce disease from outside the farm. If you are expanding your business and need to grow your herd rapidly, the preferred option is often to buy cows in, and it’s always advisable to get them thoroughly checked by a veterinarian before mixing them with existing animals. Rearing the animals yourself is a much easier way to know the health status of those you put into the herd but this, of course, takes time. Cows with existing infections such as mastitis or metritis are far more susceptible to lameness, so sick animals should always be rested somewhere comfortable to recuperate, only returning to the herd once the risks have been reduced.

Information kindly provided by DeLaval UK