Autumn has arrived on farms and just like in the spring, lameness can become a common issue.

The arrival of autumn often means the reintroduction of silage ground to the grazing platform – which means cows now have to walk further.

Lameness issues on farms are frustrating and in some cases can be costly – one lameness case can cost a dairy farmer €300/year.

Preventing lameness is the best line of defence, but even that doesn’t mean cases will not happen.

Lameness prevention

To help prevent cases of lameness you should provide cows with a good surface to walk on. If your roadways have become damaged during the grazing season, now is a good time to repair these issues.

Cows should be allowed to walk at their own pace. Allow extra time for herding and do not rush cows – especially on longer walks.

Where possible, cows should be allowed return to the paddocks straight after milking, at their own pace. Avoid holding cows in the yard, as this may lead to issues with their feet and possibly a rise in somatic cell counts (SCC).

The collecting yard should be adequate for your herd size; between 1.5m2 – 1.8m2 per cow should be available, depending on cow type/size.

Mobility scoring

You should use mobility or locomotion scoring to detect cows with lameness issues.

Mobility scoring is a system whereby cows are scored on a scale of 0-3 based on their mobility, with zero being good and three being a severely lame cow.

This is important because the earlier you treat a cow, the greater the chance of recovery.

Mobility score:

  • 0 – perfectly normal;
  • 1 – slightly lame and it is difficult to detect which foot she is lame on;
  • 2 – clinically lame and easily identifiable;
  • 3 – severely lame and in a lot of pain.

Cows identified to have mobility issue should be dealt with promptly. You should avoid not calling the hoof trimmer/vet just to treat one cow.

The longer you leave an issue the more severe the issue may become. Lameness can be a serious welfare issue on farms, so treatment should be completed promptly.

The cost associated with a case of lameness is mainly due to lost production, so treating a cow earlier will reduce production loss and save you money in the long run.