15 December 1995

Lameness warning for dairy cattle

MANY of the indoor surfaces dairy cows are walking on are unsatisfactory and may cause lameness, reported independent dairy consultant John Hughes at a south-west conference last week.

He cited studies that showed 65% of indoor concrete surfaces were either too rough (33%) or too smooth (32%).

"Lame animals lie down for longer and fail to eat a full ration. The harsher the ground is on feet, the less likely cows are to walk on it," he said.

"Smooth areas have the most dramatic effect on cow locomotion. Cows on these areas are too scared to lift their feet, so slide their feet along wearing horn away."

A sudden turn or push and they go down. Also on a slippery surface cows fail to show signs of bulling."

"When the surface is on a slope cows can go up and down but cannot turn without crashing down. This is when accidents happen and animals get shaken and damaged."

Concrete grooving fails to provide the perfect solution but gives a drastic improvement.

Ideally concrete should be laid without aggregate sticking out and with 0.3cm (1/8th inch) of fines over the aggregate which should be free from granite. The concrete should be tamped down with an automatic tamper.