Dairy Event 2009: ‘Breeding’s key to reducing lameness in cattle’

Dairy farmers looking to reduce lameness should be regularly mobility scoring cows as they move from the parlour back to grazing or cubicles and should be breeding for improved legs and feet.

Speaking in a Farm Health Planning seminar at last week’s Dairy Event and Livestock Show Nick Bell of the University of Bristol said while assessing cows feet in the parlour or while they were stood at the feed face could be useful to spot individual feet problems, it was no replacement for assessing cows as they walked.

In the same session Holstein UK classifier Lyndon Bustard said farmers should also remember breeding could play a large part in preventing lameness.

“A lot of lameness can be avoided by better breeding. Cows with sickle hocks will have a lower foot angle and consequently will have greater tendancy to develop infections such as digital dermatitis. Meanwhile, those with legs which are too straight are more prone to stone injuries in their soles as they tend to plant their feet more squarely on the ground. A foot angle somewhere between the two is what we should aiming to breed for,” Mr Bustard said.