Effects of housing and two forage diets on the development of claw horn lesions in dairy cows at first calving and in first lactation

By WEBSTER, A.J.F., Veterinary Journal, 2001
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This paper describes a systematic study of the development of lesions of the claw horn (CHL, sole and white line) in heifers calving for the first time, housed either in cubicles or a straw yard and fed either a low- or high-dry-matter forage diet. The feet of all animals were inspected on five occasions, at approximately four weeks before and four, eight, 16 and 24 weeks post calving. Haemorrhagic lesions of the sole and white line were described according to a geometric lesion score for severity and a cumulative lesion score based on the product of (severity x area) for each lesion. Geometric and cumulative lesion scores increased in all groups of cattle in the first eight weeks after calving. However, the severity and persistence of the lesions were significantly greater in cattle housed in cubicle yards. Wet feeding increased the severity of CHL in the cubicle yard only. There were no association between lesion scores and body weight, body condition or foot conformation. The heels of the cattle in straw yards tended to be thick but many showed pitting erosions. In cubicles the heels were smooth but thin. This may have contributed to CHL by increasing concussive forces within the hoof. There was a highly significant (but relatively low) correlation between scores for sole lesions and lameness in individual animals. These observations are consistent with the hypothesis that systemic events associated with calving and the onset of lactation may set in motion the chain of events that lead to the lesions of CHL; the extent and severity of these lesions being then determined by the externally imposed conditions of housing and feeding
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