HOUSING LAME cows in a loose straw yard can reduce milk yield losses and speed up recovery, but requires good management to prevent lame cows getting mastitis.

“The average lame cow loses 400 litres of milk regardless of the cause of lameness. Housing in straw yards should help reduce this loss and improve healing,” says Glos-based vet Roger Blowey, of Wood Vet Group.

But a low stocking density and regular cleaning out are essential to maintain hygiene and avoid cross contamination should the yard also double up as a hospital pen, he adds. “It’s a balance between helping lameness and preventing mastitis.

“In a typical 100-cow herd with 45 cases of lameness a year, Mr Blowey says a yard should be able to house at least 2-3 lame cows. “Each case needs to be there for a week, depending on the severity of lameness.

“Producer Tim Juckes has built a new yard for lame cows at Tredington House Farm, Tewkesbury, so they can spend as long in it as necessary.

Despite the extra work this causes, he believes it is worth it. “We’ve always had a lame cow yard because we found cows got better quicker in a straw yard. In our old 200-cow herd, about 16 fresh calvers and lame cows would be in the yard at any one time,” says Mr Juckes.

“Cows would stay in the yard for 7-10 days. But now we have expanded the herd and built a new yard 140ft by 45ft, with a feed fence, for fresh calvers and hospital cows. So they can stay in for 3-4 weeks,” he adds.

Mr Juckes has sited the yard beside the parlour so lame cows do not have far to walk. While in the yard, they have access to the main herd”s diet and are treated – using blocks, antibiotics or foot trimming.