Lameness – sort issues early

Lameness – sort issues early
Lameness – sort issues early
Lameness – sort issues early
By Hanneke Officer, Veterinarian, Anexa Vets Gordonton

Fonterra are encouraging their suppliers to complete an Animal Health Plan with their vet; there are five critical focuses outlined in these plans, one of them being lameness.

Out of all the dairy cow-related health problems, lameness made the top 5 and for a good reason: lameness has an impact on all those things that affect not only your wallet but your cow’s welfare too. Let’s have a look at one way the lameness cycle can play out:

A cow picks up a stone on the track that gets stuck between her claws...
  • every time she stands on that foot, it feels really painful
  • she starts to avoid putting pressure on that foot
  • she is slow-walking on the track and will come into the shed later
  • she spends more time on the concrete yard
  • this causes more damage plus less grazing time
  • she lies down more often as she’s sore and grazes less because of it.

Did you know that a moderate lameness case can take up to 28 days to recover?
Once this cycle begins, it can have ongoing consequences:
  • Reduced production (less grazing)
  • Reduced reproductive performance (less energy due to less grazing, heat detection harder due to slower/more lying)
  • Increased chance of culling

TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE. This means identifying the issue, and treating it accordingly. Are you aware that:
  • Upper limb lameness (hip/knee/shoulder etc.) is far less common than you think: 90% of lameness is in the foot, so pick up the affected foot within 24 hours
  • Rest in the paddock will only alleviate lameness if bruising is the cause; you can only know this if you have picked up the foot
  • Antibiotic treatment is not the answer to everything; the following three causes of lameness justify the use of antibiotics:
    • Footrot (swelling and inflammation between the claws)
    • Joint infection (swollen and painful joint area above the coronary band, soft tissue directly above the wall of the claw)
    • Some cases of white line disease where it approaches the joint (a sole lesion with pus content does not need antibiotics – the bacteria causing the pus don’t like oxygen and will die after the lesion is opened up)
    • Anti-inflammatories are more useful and appreciated by the cow in other cases of lameness. They will reduce any swelling and reduce the pain, which will ultimately speed up recovery and therefore reduce your losses while improving cow welfare.
If you notice one of your cows walking unevenly, overgrown claws that are affecting the way a cow walks – pick up the foot and check it out. Ask your vet for advice or book in some hoof trimming. As with most things, preventing a severe issue is much better than treating a more significant problem later and by keeping your herd happy and healthy, they will be more productive in the long run.

Date Added: Wednesday, 4th November 2020