13 February 1998

YOUVE ALREADY MISSED THE BOAT IF YOU HAVE TO CULL FOR LAMENESS…

With rock bottom prices for cull cows, and the relatively

high cost of replacements, management which minimises

culling rates is vital. Jessica Buss examines the

key areas that must be considered

CULLING for lameness indicates treatment has failed because it was either poor or too late.

Aim to cull no cows for lameness, says Hants-based Jonathan Harwood, St Peters Vet Group, Petersfield who recommends culls for lameness should be less than 2% of the herd a year.

On average DAISY figures suggest 20% of a herd suffers lameness in any year, with the average number of cases at 35 in a 100 cow herd, but in the best herds only 5% of the herd goes lame. When cows are lame they also suffer reduced yield and infertility, he adds.

Mr Harwood advises that apart from foul-in-the-foot and digital dermatitis, all types of lameness should be treated by foot trimming rather than using antibiotics. Vets use antibiotics because they are concerned about infections when cows are lame for some time before they see them, he adds.

"Treat cows by trimming the moment they go lame. The longer they are left the more horn must be removed, leading to a deeper injury and a longer recovery period.

"Anyone who treats a lame cow must be a competent foot trimmer. When a cow is not better in five to seven days, call in the vet."

When foul-in-the-foot is the cause of lameness antibiotic treatment is needed, but ensure the foot is lifted and any stones, sticks, or thorns removed, adds Mr Harwood.

Foot trimming is advised for overgrown feet, because they are prone to cracks which allow stones to penetrate. However, trimming in this way does not attack the cause of lameness.

To avoid risk of lameness check that concrete is in good condition, without flints showing, especially where cows need to go round corners or at feed troughs.

Mr Harwood also advises keeping passageways scrapped out so cows are not stood in slurry which softens their feet.

Lying down time

"Cows must also spend long enough off their feet and lying down. Cubicles that are too small or with too little bedding will not encourage cows to lie down." Check cow behaviour and lying position, advises Mr Harwood.

"Most cubicles can be adapted to suit todays larger cows by altering headrails and putting in a brisket board, and removing the side rail and replacing it with rope to share space between cubicles."

Nutrition in early lactation may also be important as it can affect horn development. Diets too high in energy and protein – together with poor surfaces for cows to walk – can cause bruising and lameness.

However, before culling a cow for lameness check as a last resort, with your vet, adds Mr Harwood. A claw amputation under local anaesthetic can enable a cow to finish her current lactation and possibly stay in the herd for further lactations, he suggests.

Treat lameness by trimming feet the moment cows go lame to improve cure rate, says Hampshire vet Jonathan Harwood.

LAMENESS CULLS

&#8226 Less than 2% of the herd/year.

&#8226 Treat most cases by trimming.

&#8226 Tackle cause of lameness.

&#8226 Before culling check with vet.

&#8226 Poor concrete causes damage.

HEIFER LOSSES

&#8226 22% of heifers lost before first lactation.

&#8226 14% culled during first lactation.

Main reasons:

&#8226 Before calving – infertility and poor growth.

&#8226 During lactation – infertility for over half.

Source: Understanding the rearing of dairy heifers, NMR.

How would you ensure this valuable first calver remains in the herd for as long as possible? Clean straw bedding will help control mastitis, but reducing lameness and infertility

will also be crucial to herdlife.