What role does lameness play in your herd’s repro success this season?

What role does lameness play in your herd’s repro success this season?
By Hanneke Officer, Veterinarian, Healthy Hoof Advisor, Anexa Vets Gordonton

Mating is approaching rapidly and it’s great to see a lot of farmers are doing everything they can to optimise reproductive performance this year; blood sampling, metrichecking, body condition scoring etc. However no one has asked me to have a look at their herd’s feet while I’m doing any of those activities - Why not?

Not to chew the cud too much, but the sequence explaining the role of lameness in reproductive performance is very straightforward:
  • Tender feet = more time spent lying down – less time spent eating – less ME intake – struggle to fulfil feed requirements for maintenance, lactation and cycling.
  • Tender feet = slower motion – slower to get to the shed – more time spend back of the yard – less time to graze.
So what happens then? Reduced feed intake means a cow has to prioritise what the available energy is used for. Generally, cycling activity comes last as it’s not essential to her survival.

Typically we see an increase in lameness around mating due to a number of reasons, the main ones being:
  • Damage caused due to the “calving effect”.
  • Cows have been milking for more than a couple of months. and have therefore hiked up a few kilometers.
  • Cycling behaviour increases activity for the cow, but also within the herd. This behaviour can increase risk for the claws especially when cows are bulling on the concrete yard.
    So how can you assess the risk lameness might have on your herd’s repro performance this season? Through observation. We recommend:
  • Identifying cows with overgrown claws in the herd. This can be done during milking or during routine procedures like metrichecking. Knowledge of the level of overgrown claws in your herd will allow you to prioritise treatment, monitor progress and help identify risk factors for future lameness.
  • Lameness scoring the herd is a way to observe the herd for signs of lameness. When you are used to seeing the normal walking pattern of a cow, it’s much easier to recognise when lameness starts to happen in the individual cow. Identifying lame cows early means less time spent treating, faster recovery and less loss in milk and reproductive performance. Check out DairyNZ’s ‘how to’ lameness scoring video here: https://www.dairynz.co.nz/animal/cow-health/lameness/lameness-scoring/ .
If you would like to know more start a conversation with your vet and ask them to spend a few minutes having a look at the claws of your cows.

To book your cows with overgrown claws in for a trim, to restore proper weightbearing surface and help prevent progress of overgrown claws into lameness call Rhonda on 07 824 2103.

Date Added: Thursday, 3rd September 2020