“It should be noted that measurable success in reducing lameness and improving reproductive performance has been realized on dairies approaching lameness as a team of people including the management/owner, veterinarian, nutritionist, hoof trimmer and breeding team,” DeFrain says.
Locomotion scoring and hoof-trimming records should be used together to formulate a plan to address the trigger factors causing lameness within each individual dairy. Incorporating this approach on a routine basis will provide for greater levels of reproductive performance.
2. Analysis of claw lesions present in the herd.
Proper diagnosis of claw lesions at the trim chute forms the foundation for a solid investigation into lameness and reproductive performance. The veterinarian and/or hoof trimmer should work to establish a baseline of current levels of claw lesions present within each herd and work with the management/owners to make changes to address the lesions expressed in greatest quantity. Lastly, with the veterinarian’s help, they should monitor the reproductive performance of the herd over time.
3. Assessment of management practices on the dairy.
Historically, mistakes in nutritional formulations may have played a significant role in lameness on dairies, DeFrain says. “Today, it seems the majority of claw lesions present are not directly related to nutrition. Most of the nutritionally related factors become manifested through how we group and manage cows and how feed deliveries are managed.”
The majority of diets fed today are well-balanced; however, the eating and resting/rumination behavior of the cows becomes affected by how the feed is mixed, delivered and pushed up and how pen stocking densities are managed — all of which significantly affects how the cow consumes the diet and ultimately contributes to compromised rumen function.
Lame cows should be addressed immediately. This includes proper functional and corrective trimming technique and isolating these cows to a pen which has a soft, forgiving walking/resting surface, is not overstocked, has ample water supply and a pen which is close to the milking center, DeFrain recommends. “Typically, the diet for this pen is formulated for a reduced level of intake and is fortified with key nutrients known to affect the growth, healing and repair of the claw such as highly bioavailable forms of trace minerals.”
Geni Wren is editor of Bovine Veterinarian, a sister publication of Dairy Herd Management.