Using a simple locomotion scoring system to establish the true cost of lameness in individual herds would be a valuable first step in addressing an all-too-common and increasing issue, according to UK-based consultant Bruce Woodacre.

Such a system, which recognises the full spectrum of affected cows and not just those with a chronic condition, would allow farmers to view preventative action as an investment – rather than a cost – and ensure greater profitability overall.

“We know from published research that lameness now affects 30% of cows on average in a typical herd in any given year and each case costs in the region of £400.

This means lameness could cost about £12,000 a year for a 100 cow herd.

“That’s a lot of money – perhaps as much as 1p/litre off the milk cheque – but I don’t believe many farmers take the necessary action until the figures are presented for their own herd.

“A locomotion scoring system, followed by an interpretation of the results in terms of reduced milk yield, really does bring the message home and sets a budget for the preventative measures taken.”

Mr Woodacre said reducing lameness to acceptable – or target – levels should be the goal and clear objectives in terms of investment can then be set.

“If we take a conservative view, a typical 100 cow herd might have the scope to save £10,000 by reducing lameness,” he said.

“In this case, a £5000 investment in improved mineral and vitamin nutrition, for example, and/or the introduction of improved footbath facilities, would provide a 2:1 return on investment, which I consider to be well worthwhile.”

fwlivestock@rbi.co.uk