Lameness in dairy cattle

By Ward, W.R., Irish Veterinary Journal, 2001
Research Paper Web Link / URL:
Lameness in dairy cattle is a very common problem, although variation between farms is enormous, with an incidence of up to 55 cases per 100 cows per year, and prevalence assessed by Locomotion scoring up to 20 per cent. The most common Lesions in the UK are sole ulcers, white Line Lesions, digital dermatitis and fouls. The cows' welfare is compromised as is evident by their abnormal behaviour and increased sensitivity to pain. Economic effects are reflected through poorer fertility, a greater risk of culling and costs of treatment. The effects on milk yield are confused by the fact that higher yielding cows are more prone to Lameness. Risk factors are multiple and include foot shape, Longer toes and either high or shallow heels. Also, cows in cubicles with a hard base and high kerb tend to have more Lameness. Some bulls have daughters with a record of more Lameness and bulls who transmit shallow toe angles and hocks pointing in are Likely to have daughters susceptible to Lameness. Foot-trimming consistently improves foot shape but does not always reduce the risk of lameness. Feeding Large amounts of rapidly fermentable carbohydrate or protein or wet silage is associated with increased risk. Head-rails or electric cow-trainers that discourage cows from defecating in the cubicle are associated with Less Lameness. However, they do restrict the cows' behaviour. It is known that rows lie down for Longer in Large, soft cubicles or in straw yards and this reduces the risk of Lameness. And, if cows are allowed to walk at their own pace, they produce a smooth cow walk and Locomotion score (which was better in herds where the farmer's knowledge, training and awareness was good) is improved. Heifers that are Lame in their first lactation are at greater risk of Lameness Later and older cows are at greater risk. Treatment of foot Lameness by applying a block to the healthy claw was more successful than bandaging, and a shoe was quicker to apply and stayed on Longer than a wooden block. Prolonged treatment and foot-bathing were successful in eradicating digital dermatitis from one herd. Ceftiofur at high doses was as successful as oxytetracycline in treating foul; in addition, severe foul was treated successfully with tylosin plus topical chlortetracycline and clindamycin.
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