DairyCo has launched a new mobility scoring system at the South West Dairy Event, aiming to become the industry standard for measuring lameness in dairy herds and to rid the industry of confusion. Poor mobility in dairy cows can cost farmers an average of £180 a case through lost milk sales, treatments and productivity, DairyCo reported.

The new score is set to replace more than 16 commonly used assessment methods-all with different measurement criteria and terminology-with one industry recognised score. It is estimated 25% of the national herd is lame at any one time, representing a drain on the industry. Significant savings can therefore be made by farmers adopting a regular procedure to aid earlier identification and therefore prompt action.

Extensively tested by vets, farmers and researchers, the new method is based on a four-point system with scores ranging from 0-3. A cow scoring 0, the best possible score, will have good mobility and walk with even weight bearing on all four feet. A cow scoring three however, will be unable to keep up with the healthy herd and may show uneven weight bearing on a limb.

By simplifying the scoring system, farmers can now conduct mobility score on farm without the need for professional help, said vet and research fellow at Bristol University, Nick Bell.

“For effective scoring farers should check the diary herd at least once a month and choose a time and a place which allows them to observe cows ideally on a hard, no-slip surface. And if a farmer doesn’t score his cows regularly, the reality is he may have a lot of cows in score 2 without realising it,” said Dr Bell.

“The impact on yield loss, fertility and longevity can be huge, so there are significant welfare and financial benefits from adopting the system. And by intercepting lameness early, farmers can save hidden costs for treatment and loss of milk production of up to £4000 a year for every 100 cows.”

Dorchester dairy farmer, Nick Cobbs backs the industry-wide scoring system and said mobility scoring provided a more in-depth awareness of how a cow should walk. “Scoring every two weeks helped us pick up individual cows which are less mobile at the earliest opportunity for a foot trim before they go lame. We now believe this is a crucial part of managing our 700 cow dairy herd,” he said.