Lameness is the third largest loss of income in the dairy herd, dwarfed only by mastitis and poor fertility. The economic losses of both dairy and beef cow lameness result from lost production, increased labour costs associated with treatment, and also the welfare costs to the animal.
Lameness in cattle can be caused by a number of environmental and genetic factors. Environmental factors include farm tracks (design, construction and maintenance) yards, the manner in which cows are handled during the milking process, rainfall, nutrition and infectious agents. Cow and claw conformation are key genetic factors. Lameness is best treated sooner rather than later to prevent losses due to decreased milk yield, decreased growth rate in growing stock and decreased fertility due to impacting cycling, oestrus behaviour and conception rate.
The most common lesions that we see (in no particular order) are: overgrown toes, axial wall cracks, vertical wall cracks, white line disease, heel and toe abscesses, interdigital infection, and underrun sole/ulceration. Most of these can be solved with a corrective foot trim, although some may require antibiotics and blocks to be placed. We occasionally glue wooden or rubber blocks to the healthy claw to lift the problem claw off of the ground and allow the pathology to resolve. It is a good idea to routinely check your cows feet and have them trimmed annually to prevent lameness from becoming a significant issue on your farm.
At Willunga Vets, we have a tipper trailer that we can bring to your farm which is able to tip cows on their side and restrain all 4 legs at once. From here we examine all four feet and then perform corrective trimming with a specialised grinding equipment. This way is less stressful for the cow compared to using ropes in a crush and is a much safer alternative. Our new vet Ben has spent the last 3 years in Mount Gambier trimming thousands of feet- dairy and beef- with a tipper trailer.
So, if you have any cows with overgrown toes, or if you want to do some lameness prevention in your herd, then please ring the clinic to book an appointment with our large animal vets.