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Preventing Lameness

Considerations for preventing

lameness cases in your herd By Michael Cox for American Dairymen Magazine

P

revention is better than cure,’ is a phrase that often comes to mind while carrying out daily duties on-farm. Many dairy producers have excellent animal health prevention protocols in place, such as vaccinations and bio-security. But when it comes to the issue of lameness in the dairy herd, perhaps we need to take a second look at prevention methods, and aim to minimize having to take a second look at yet another cow showing poor mobility.

Recent research findings published in the Journal of Dairy Science suggest that lameness prevention merits a strong focus on dairy farms. Findings published by researchers Randall et al 2017, state that previous lameness occurrence greatly increases the future risk of subsequent lameness cases. In a study of two large dairy herds in the United Kingdom, the researchers discovered a 96% and 89.5% repeat rate of clinical lameness following an initial lameness case. Such high rates of repeat offences are not only costly in terms of lower production, treatment costs and labor inputs, they also lead to higher rates of involuntary culling.

Facilities

Preventing lameness can be best achieved by focusing on a few

key areas of the farm’s facilities. Advice from University of Kentucky Extension urges dairymen to pay attention to the following areas, namely; Cleanliness, Holding pen time, Footbaths, Bedding, Heat Stress and Overcrowding. Cleanliness; Areas of high-traffic need to be regularly cleaned and maintained in a manure-free condition. Excessive manure can rapidly spread diseases such as digital dermatitis throughout the herd. Feeding areas, around water troughs and stalls are just some of the places to consistently monitor and keep clean. Holding pen time: Cows waiting in holding pens before entering the milking parlour is a potentially problematic area for consideration. Total daily holding pen times should be 1

hour or less, regardless of milking frequency. Short holding times will help reduce hoof stress and unnecessary standing time on hard surfaces. Footbaths: Regular footbathing is a crucial lameness preventative and treatment practice. While every farm will have a different requirement for footbathing, it is recommended that cows go through a footbath at least once a fortnight. Copper sulphate and/or formaldehyde are the triedand-trusted footbathing solutions for most dairymen. Footbath solutions should not exceed 5% concentration and should be topped up regularly (after 200 cows have passed through the footbath). Recent research findings are indicating that weaker solution concentrations, i.e. 1%-3% and more frequent bathing, i.e. 4-7 days consecutively, could be more beneficial in treating and preventing hairy heel warts and other infectious diseases than stronger and less frequent bathing. Ideally, cows should have a minimum of two steps in the solution (1 step gives approximately 3 seconds of contact time). Bath sizes should be at least 3.5meters long and * Continued on page 16

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April 2018

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