Moisture Content, Thickness, and Lesions of Sole Horn Associated with Thin Soles in Dairy Cattle

By Palin, F. L. and Shearer, J. K. and van Amstel, S. R., J Dairy Sci, 2004
Thin soles and resulting lameness are often associated with increased culling rates in large dairy operations. The moisture content of the sole horn may cause the horn to be softer, thus predisposing it to an increased rate of wear. For that reason, the first objective of this study was to determine the moisture content of the sole horn of thin-soled cows. The second objective was to document physical changes of the claw associated with thin soles. Twenty-six adult Holstein cows showing signs of thin soles, and 16 normal cows were used in the study. Selection criteria for thin-soled cows included a dorsal wall length of less than 7.5 cm and the following clinical signs: painful gait, arched back, and specific leg lameness. Sixteen normal adult cows with dorsal wall length in excess of 7.5 cm were randomly selected. For thin-soled cows, the moisture contents of sole horn were 37.1 {+/-} 0.7% for front claws and 40.5 {+/-} 0.7% for rear claws. These values were significantly different from each other. Moisture contents of sole horn from normal cows were 31.08 {+/-} 0.93% for front claws and 33.1 {+/-} 0.9% for rear claws, which were significantly different from each other and different from thin-soled cows. Rear claws had higher moisture contents than front claws. Mean sole horn thickness was 4.23 {+/-} 0.18 mm for the rear lateral claws and 5.15 {+/-} 0.18 mm for the rear medial claws. The average dorsal wall lengths were 66.8 {+/-} 3.94 mm for rear lateral claws and 69.1 {+/-} 7.25 mm for rear medial claws. Thirty percent of rear feet with thin soles had pathological claw horn lesions including sole/white line separation (72%) and sole ulcers (28%). Of the affected claws, 13% had more than one lesion. Seventy-seven percent of claw lesions occurred in the lateral claw.
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