14 November 1997

Calving care can cut down on sole ulcers

CARE with management and feeding around calving is the best way to reduce the sole ulcers that can occur four to eight weeks later, Roger Blowey told a College Network conference at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester.

"The bruising that you find in the sole when a cow is lame occurred four to eight weeks ago, around calving. Horn formation was disrupted at this time because the animal was stressed," he said. If disruption was severe the foot was susceptible to damage, such as allowing stones to penetrate.

But improving nutrition, housing and management could reduce lameness, he said. At calving cows ate less, decreasing rumination and increasing the risk of acidosis, which increased the fragility of the hoof. Cows needed a high fibre diet, therefore, to stimulate rumination. And concentrates should be increased slowly after calving.

Cows also required comfort, and ideally Mr Blowey suggested keeping them in a straw yard for three to four weeks after calving. When cows were in cubicles they should be comfortable and well bedded so their knees were off bare concrete.

Cows feet should also be kept dry by regular scraping of slurry passages. And they should be handled gently. Rushing cows along rough tracks would not give them enough time to avoid stones that would damage their hooves.

added Mr Blowey.