Management and breeding is key to cow lameness

Dairy farmers looking to reduce lameness should be regularly scoring cows on mobility 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 Nick Bell of the University of Bristol said that, although assessing cows feet in the parlour or at the feed face could be useful in spotting individual foot problems, this was no replacement for assessing cows as they walked.

In the same session, Holstein UK classifier Lyndon Bustard said farmers should also remember that 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 a greater tendancy to develop infections such as digital dermatitis. Meanwhile, those with legs which are too straight are more prone to stones injuries on 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.”

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