Lameness decreases fertility in dairy cattle. According to research published in the November 2011 Journal of Dairy Science, lame cows took 12 days longer to conceive than non-lame cows.

Lameness also is a concern to beef quality. To prevent lameness issues and production losses in adult animals, initiate proper hoof health management at an early age.

Here are some Dairy Animal Care & Quality Assurance (DACQA) guidelines that apply to the hoof health of growing animals, as well as adult dairy cattle:

  • Pay attention to nutrition issues such as ration particle length and effective fiber.
  • Provide non-slip surfaces for confident footing, especially in high traffic areas.
  • Avoid overcrowding and allow adequate resting space for animals. Minimum resting space guidelines for heifers can be found in the Housing section of the Dairy Calf & Heifer Association’s Gold Standards III.
  • To avoid injury, keep animals calm during handling and transport. For more guidelines, refer to the Handling and Transportation sections of the Dairy Calf & Heifer Association’s Gold Standards III.
  • Knowledge and awareness are the first lines of defense in preventing lameness. Learn how to spot hoof problems early. A closer look at lameness scores and their impact on production can be found in Section IV-B of the DACQA manual.

The DACQA program is a voluntary, national certification program intended to enhance and demonstrate quality animal care practices. These practices assure food safety, quality and value as well as enhance consumer confidence in the milk and beef products that are harvested from cattle on America’s dairy farms.

For additional information on housing, handling and transportation, refer to the Dairy Calf & Heifer Association’s Gold Standards III, animal welfare standards for rearing calves and heifers, from birth to freshening, across the United States.