15 December 1995

Lameness cases reveal if youre welfare friendly

Winter housing management is the key to avoiding lameness in dairy cattle, a south-west conference heard last week. Jessica Buss reports

THE number of dairy cows lame on any one day will show milk buyers exactly how welfare friendly an individual unit is.

That was the message from Dr Richard Murray of Liverpool Veterinary College speaking to 80 farmers at a conference organised by south-west co-op Mole Valley Farmers at the Royal Cornwall Showground, Wadebridge.

Based on evidence from a recent lameness study, Dr Murray claimed there was a proven relationship between the cases of lameness on any one day and annual incidence. That meant a quick assessment could be made by a vet or specialist showing how well a producer coped with lameness throughout the year.

"This poses no particular threat but explains the basis on which future welfare assessments will be made," he said. "Your milk buyer will check that you have a welfare friendly farm."

Liverpool University studies concluded that for each 100 cows there were 55 new cases of lameness a year. "Preventative foot trim-ming is a short-term solution. Add-ress the problem in cow housing." That may include improving cubicles, yards and tracks, and housing vulnerable heifers in straw yards.

The cows feet are growing in response to her housing. Get that right and growth will be matched by wear. It should only be necessary to trim feet in late lactation provided cows then go on to grass or are housed on straw yards to reduce subsequent lameness. Trimming regularly will not improve things – in fact one can trim too frequently, he warned.

Dr Murray also said the studies showed there was a difference in lameness incidence and treatment between areas of the UK, With Somerset suffering more lameness than Cheshire. &#42