Lameness in dairy cows is a serious welfare issue, causing both pain and distress to the animal.

Lameness can adversely affect several areas such as milk production, fertility and feeding behaviour. On average each case of lameness costs £323 on a typical farm (see Table 1). Using the DairyCo mobility scoring system lameness is defined as cows scoring 2 or 3.

Research carried out on 57 Northern Ireland dairy farms by AFBI (Hillsborough) showed that on average 33% of cows in the herd were lame (range 1.5-74.7%). These lameness levels were similar to those found in England and Wales (37%) and other EU countries. Due to the range in lameness levels between farms, this research suggests that dairy cow mobility could be improved through the adoption of specific practical strategies, highlighted within this section.

A large group of farmers recently attended a CAFRE hoof trimming demonstration on the farm of Drew and Valerie McConnell, Omagh. The aim of the event was to demonstrate best practice in relation to hoof trimming, along with discussing the common causes of lameness and the importance of early detection/treatment of lame cows.

Professional hoof trimmer Mark Clements demonstrated to farmers how to practically apply the 5 step Dutch method with lame cows and cows requiring a routine trim. This was a unique opportunity for farmers to avail of Mark’s practical knowledge and advice in relation to the different hoof lesions found within the cows trimmed. Mark emphasized the importance of maintaining good hoof trimming records and the merits of routine foot trimming at drying off.