Learn more about managing lameness in dairy heifers

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At the upcoming DCHA Conference, March 20-21, in Visalia, Calif., guest speaker Jan Shearer, DVM, MS, professor and extension veterinarian at Iowa State University, will address a topic that is relevant to your calf and heifer operation and that can impact your bottom line in the future. His session on managing lameness will be offered in both Spanish and English.

To hear Dr. Shearer cover this topic more thoroughly, plan now to attend the DCHA Conference. Click here to preview all of the speakers and presentations. Although online registration is closed now, you can still register on site starting Monday, March 19, at the Visalia Convention Center, 303 E. Acequia, in downtown Visalia.

Here's a sneak preview of Dr. Shearer's session.

Causes of non-weight bearing lameness

Fractures. The most common causes of lameness resulting in a calf or young animal's refusal to bear weight on a limb are trauma-related fractures. These often occur in dystocia cases that require forced extraction of the fetus at calving. Fractures of the cannon bone on the front legs occur due to excessive or inappropriate traction.

Other trauma-related fractures would include fracture of the distal tibia resulting from the cow stepping on the calf. When or if this occurs, the calf should be kept in a confined area to prevent the fracture from compounding and perforating through the skin. Where possible the fracture can be stabilized with a padded bandage or splint. Care should be taken to avoid bandages that become excessively tight. Most fractures in calves below the elbow and stifle joint can be fixed using long-term immobilization of the fracture ends through the use of a cast. 

Septic Arthritis. Another cause of non-weight bearing or toe touching lameness is septic arthritis. Septic arthritis, localized in one or more joints, is a common outcome of infection via the navel, which is also a common site of entry for infectious organisms in newborn calves. Secondary involvement of joints may occur from septicemias arising from gastrointestinal (E. coli, Salmonella, etc.) or respiratory (Mycoplasma sp.) diseases as well. Colostrum-deprived calves are particularly susceptible to septicemia and infectious arthritis. Another source of infection is the feeding of contaminated raw milk. Joints become warm and swollen, with affected animals showing varying degrees of lameness.   


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