“Lameness is one of the key diseases from a welfare standpoint,” says veterinarian Gerard Cramer of Cramer Mobile Bovine Veterinary Services in Stratford, Ontario. Yet, failure to find lame cows and treat them early is an ongoing problem on many dairies. “We don’t find lame cows fast enough,” Cramer said last week during an educational seminar at World Dairy Expo.

Correct this problem by creating a lameness-management program that is specific to your herd. Make these components part of your program:

  1. Good records. Record cows that become lame and what lesions are present at routine hoof-trimmings. These data allow you to look across time and spot trends when troubleshooting lameness problems.
  2. Comfortable, clean and dry housing. This reduces standing time and exposure to manure which is the major source of infectious foot lesions like digital dermatitis and foot rot.
  3. Foot baths. Treat the claws on your cows’ feet just as you would treat her teats. Use routine foot-bathing and spraying to protect a cow’s feet from infectious lesions just as you use proper teat-dipping to control mastitis.
  4. Routine evaluations. Create a routine lame-cow detection and hoof-trimming schedule that allows you to evaluate and treat lame cows promptly.
  5. Minimize metabolic stress. Metabolic problems that lead to sub-acute ruminal acidosis also play a role in hoof horn lesion development.
  6. Teamwork. A team approach is necessary for making your foot-health management program work.