Too many producers accept a certain level of lameness as normal.

“The normal cow is not lame,” says Edgar Garrett, veterinarian with Novartis Animal Health US, Inc. “Yet, research consistently shows that the annual incidence of lameness in dairy herds averages between 25 percent and 30 percent.”

To demonstrate the profit potential from reducing lameness below these levels, Garrett cites a British study that compared lameness in 340 herds. The lowest 25 percent — the best-managed herds — had less than 6 percent lame cows annually. The worst herds had more than 50 percent lameness. (See chart below.) This translates into a difference of $13,350 in yearly lameness cost per 100 cows between the best and worst herds.

“Most producers can achieve higher profits by taking management steps toward reaching a goal of 10 percent to 15 percent lameness,” Garrett says.