Lameness in cows is a common problem in dairy herds across the country. Every farmer will have experienced it at some point and to varying degrees.
Lameness impacts the bottom line through production and fertility losses and Dairy Australia estimates a lame cow costs the farmer around $280.
Kyabram Veterinary Clinic in conjunction with BVG Hoof Trimming hosted a Lameness Prevention Seminar at the Stanhope dairy farm of Grant and Kylie Miller in March.
Lame cows were picked out from the herd and treated by Shayne Moyston from BVG Hoof Trimming.
Mr Moyston uses a locomotion score to determine the degree of lameness – one being normal, five being severely lame.
He examines each cow’s gait before it enters the chute and he then treats them accordingly, usually with the ‘Dutch method’ of trimming.
“This farm has a feed pad and I will look for the lesions I see associated with feed pads,” Mr Moyston said.
“I’m looking for sole ulcers, corkscrewed claws and to a lesser extent, all the other lesions associated with cows on irrigation country.”
Kyabram vet Mick McAuliffe said there were many things that could contribute to lameness – laneways, nutrition, hoof conformation and stock management.
He said it was important to remember to pay attention to your herd at all times but particularly at drying-off.
“If a cow has poor feet condition while in milk, this problem can be compounded through her dry-off period,” Dr McAuliffe said.
At drying-off cows experience nutritional, environmental and metabolic changes that can alter wear, growth and shape of the hoof, resulting in lameness.
Springing heifers also need to have special attention paid to them. Hard dry ground and fluctuating feeding can result in rapid growth of claws and abnormal wear due to poor hoof angle.
Worst-case scenario can see toes snapping off and heifers becoming lame around calving time.
The Miller family runs a 420-cow split-calving herd. The cows graze pasture or are fed on the feed pad. The greatest distance the cows walk to a paddock would be about a kilometre; this dry season has seen the herd spend more time on the pad and less in the paddock.
Lameness is not a major issue for the herd, a fact Mr Miller attributes to the installation of rubber matting at the rotary dairy.
“If we get a bit of rain lameness flares up, but we find it is more of a problem for us in wet conditions,” Mr Miller said.
“Lame cows can be frustrating, they cost us through production losses and in cow health.
“About 10 years ago we spent a lot of money fixing up our laneways and that worked really well. It is time to do that again but it is a tough season and there is no money around for things like that.”