The Cost Of Lameness in Cattle

Lameness is recognised as a problem worldwide, and is considered one of the most important welfare issues in the dairy industry today. Third only to mastitis and fertility, lameness is a major disease cost in dairy production. When the cost per case is calculated and extrapolated, the figures are quite disturbing.

costofhoofcarePercentage split of top three disease costs in dairy farming today

Źródło: Dienst landbouwkundig onderzoek instituut voor mileu – en agtritechniek J. Stefanowska M.C.J smits C.R Bramm 98-00 The Veterinary Record (Papers And Articles) Faull, Hughes, Clarkson, Downham, Manson, Merritt, Murray, Russell, Sutherest Ward


Reports vary widely, but generally the cost per case of lameness in Europe is currently considered to average EUR 250, depending on the problem or cause. In the US, it’s considered to be around USD 345. Considering that around 25 percent of your animals could be affected and that cases can easily recur. It makes sense, and is particularly important that susceptible cows (such as sick cows, heifers. freshly calved or dry cows) are well managed to prevent this.

A lame cow is more susceptible to contracting other diseases such as mastitis, is likely to produce less milk, to be less fertile and a serious burden on your pocket! When considering the costs of lameness, we should therefore take into account three main components: indirect costs such as economic losses from reduced productivity and fertility; more direct costs such as treatment costs, veterinary time, labour and extra husbandry requirements; and also the more difficult ones to measure, such as the welfare costs of a suffering cow in addition to the potential stress or inconvenience for the producer.

Lameness costs may also depend on the type of dairy system used. Przykładowo, those on a grass-based system experience different types and causes of lameness than those in an intensive free-stall or loose-housed system. These entail differing costs and different levels of prevention or treatment.

typesCost of lameness in dairy herds

Źródło: Esslemont and kossaibati (2002), Note: only 15% of all cases are treated by a vet

Another way of looking at the economics of lameness is to compare the production life span of your animals with your culling rate, and associated reasons and costs, and the costs of replacement animals. On average, 10-15 percent of cows are culled for reasons directly related to lameness, but around 30 percent are culled for fertility problems, which can often be attributed to previous lameness. In Europe, the average lactation age is 2.5-2.8, depending on the country and how intensively the cows are reared, Jednak, a cow can easily produce for more than ten years and it’s estimated that a dairy cow is most valuable during her sixth lactation. So what’s happening? Why aren’t we managing to achieve this? What this means is that, in many cases, producers are only just breaking even rather than profiting from their cows due to the short life and productivity of the animals and the high costs of culling and replacing them. It’s clear that if cows are well managed and treated and consequently have lower disease and lameness rates, they will live longer with a greater lifetime production. In addition, far fewer cows would be culled for lameness problems. The lactation age would therefore increase, fertility rates would improve, calving intervals would be shorter, and the producer would ultimately be more profit­able.

There are now many economic calculators available to record lactation ages, fertility rates, production, treatment, culling and replacement costs. We recommend using one to understand what’s happening in your herd. This will help you increase the lifespan and productivity of your animals by preventative means rather than culling.

Informacje dostarczone przez DeLaval UK