29 September 2000

Fight lameness at calving time

CALVING is the most important time for dairy cow nutrition in the fight against lameness.

At the EDFE, leading vet Roger Blowey said a cows horn shows how many calvings she has had by the number of rings evident on the horn.

This is because horn development undergoes major stress at calving. So producers really must look after their cows during calving, he added.

"At calving a cow stops cudding, and because of this there is a drop in rumen activity." When this happens, acid forms in a cows stomach and not enough biotin is produced, which helps stick horn together.

To counteract this, producers can add biotin to the diet or improve their ration.

In a study with Bibby, 1000 cows were looked at over two years, and this form of lameness, called white line disease, was reduced by half by adding biotin to the ration, said Mr Blowey.

He calculated that to an average 100-cow dairy herd this is worth an extra £1750. Adding biotin costs 3p/cow/day, but it does not need to be in the ration for the whole year, just the period up to and after calving.

Alternatively, he suggested feeding cows a diet that would ensure they were ruminating at calving. This means including plenty of fibre and long chop forage, slowly introducing concentrates and keeping starch levels low. &#42

The horn in a cows foot tells all about nutrition, explains vet Roger Blowey; feeding biotin can help.