Managing lameness in your herd
Lameness can be caused by a variety of foot and leg conditions including infections, disease or even environmental conditions. Getting to the root of the problems far exceeds the challenge of managing lameness.
Unfortunately, lameness can affect your best and highest producing cows. High-producing cows tend to develop lower body condition scores since they work so hard to produce milk.
Common causes of lameness may include:
Infection diseases including foot rot and digital dermatitis, typically caused by environmental factors;
Heel erosion—when the smooth bulb of the heel becomes pitted;
Upper leg injury as a result of cows slipping and falling; and
Husbandry factors such as the handling facility and the flooring being used, and the size and comfort of the cubicles.
Heifer raisers can minimize lameness by:
Keeping lame cows in a separate pen so that they are not overcrowded;
Maintaining clean surroundings to prevent infections;
Wet, muddy conditions are linked to causing infectious disorders to the foot skin;
Repairing broken concrete to eliminate slurry pooling in yards; and
Creating an ongoing relationship with a practicing herd veterinarian to ensure the safety and well-being of your dairy animals.
The veterinarian should physically visit the operation and observe animals on a monthly basis and should provide counsel, develop protocols and assist in employee training for all areas of management related to animal welfare.