The reliability and repeatability of a lameness scoring system for use as an indicator of welfare in dairy cattle

By Willen, Stefanie and Winckler, Christoph, Acta Agriculturae Scandinavica Section A-Animal Science, 2001
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In 16 dairy herds, a lameness scoring system which was reasonably quick and easy to use was evaluated with regard to reliability and repeatability. The ultimate aim was to include it into an on-farm welfare assessment protocol. Locomotion scores in individual cows (n=206) were significantly correlated with the heel and sole disorder indices obtained at routine claw trimmings (e.g. index for hind limb lesions: rs=0.40, p=0.0001; Spearman Rank Correlation Coefficients). The inclusion of lesions caused by digital dermatitis increased correlation coefficients when hind limbs and all four feet were considered (rs=0.47/0.50). The inter-observer repeatability of locomotion scores in individual cows was high, and the variation between observers was low when calculated as a percentage of animals within each scoring class. Thus the locomotion scoring system proved to be a useful tool for assessing lameness, and as such a valuable part of on-farm welfare assessment in dairy cattle. It is recommended that scoring be performed at least twice during the housing period
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