Lameness needs early detection

Lameness in dairy cows is a serious welfare issue, according to Dr Alastair Boyle, Dairying Technologist, CAFRE, causing both pain and distress to the animal.

It can adversely affect several areas such as milk production, fertility and feeding behaviour. On average each case of lameness costs €200 on a typical farm. The more serious forms of lameness result in higher costs, with sole ulcers costing farmers €400. Taking all these factors into consideration, it is therefore important for every dairy farm to have specific measures in place to address lameness, he said.

The first priority in a lameness programme is the early detection of lame cows, and in turn prompt treatment. Mobility scoring is one such tool which can be used on farm to detect lame cows.

Mobility scoring

Mobility scoring is a system whereby cows are scored on a scale of 0-3 based on their mobility, with 0 being good and 3 being a severely lame cow. As indicated in the Table, cows scoring either 0 or 1 have acceptable mobility, and therefore require only routine preventative foot trimming. The aim, when scoring your herd is to focus on identifying the cows scoring 2 or 3 and prioritize these cows for treatment as soon as possible. Mobility scoring should ideally be carried out at least once per month, with cows allowed to walk at their own pace, possibly as animals exit the parlour.

Typically, he said, cows should be mobility scored on a monthly basis, and from the scores obtained an action list of cows for examination is produced, with cows being trimmed within 2-3 days.

Key benefits of mobility scoring include:

  • Early signs of cows with poor mobility in the herd are detected, prompting examination;
  • Cows identified in the early stages of lameness and treated promptly are less likely to develop severe cases of sole ulcers and white line disease;
  • Potentially reduced treatment costs provided early detection and prompt treatment follows;
  • Increased foot health awareness; and,
  • Trends in mobility can be monitored identifying the time points when lameness peaks and troughs in your herd.

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