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|0707 EL: Why trim cows' feet?|
|El Lechero Dairy Basics - Herd Health|
|Written by Luis Rodriguez DVM, Jeff DeFrain DVM|
|Saturday, 30 June 2007 17:00|
Lameness is often recognized as one of the biggest reasons for premature removal of cows from the dairy herd.Many studies around the world have found the incidence of lameness in dairy operations to be as high as nearly 50 percent. Lame cows typically have:
• lower milk yields
Researchers have estimated 2% of clinical lameness cases die and 20% are culled. The financial losses associated with lameness in dairy cattle are $300 to $350 per clinical case. On a 1,000-cow dairy experiencing a 30% incidence of lameness, that translates into more than $100,000 annually for the operation. Can you afford to overlook this issue?
The reasons cows become lame can be quite complex, as many of these factors are interrelated. However, the main reason cows become lame is most often related to cows walking on hooves (claws) with a compromised or unbalanced weight-bearing surface.
Overloading the cow’s claw due to excessive wear or overgrowth can create a claw that is sensitive, unstable and more prone to lameness. Therefore, cows’ feet need to be checked and trimmed for two reasons:
1. restoration of appropriate weight bearing within and between the claws of each foot
2. early identification of claw lesions
It is important to note that not all cows examined will require trimming, as over-trimming will result in greater incidence of lameness.
Hoof horn growth
Let’s consider one of those items: hoof horn. The hoof horn, also viewed as modified skin, grows roughly 1/4-inch per month on the wall of the hoof. In comparison, the sole of the hoof grows at a rate of 1/8-inch per month.
The actual rate of horn growth is affected by factors such as environment (dirt versus concrete), breed, nutrition, blood supply to the claw, and weight bearing mechanics. The interaction among these factors causes the shape of the hoof to change over time.
The shape of the claw is therefore determined by both the rate of growth and the rate of wear. Claw wear can be affected by many factors, but the most important are nutrition, management and facility design.
While many factors are imperative to proper foot health, the simple fact is this: Dairy producers who have taken a proactive approach to foot management can attest that cows with healthy, pain-free feet eat better, milk better and breed better. In addition, these cows are also much more likely to stay in the herd longer, generating more long-term profit for the dairy operation.
We look forward to bringing you other pertinent hoof health information in the months ahead. In future columns, we will cover other important factors in hoof trimming, the anatomy of the hoof and proper trimming techniques. EL