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Know the signs and symptoms of lameness

Brad Ingram for Progressive Dairy Published on 06 May 2020

There’s nothing more important to a dairy farmer than to keep milk production booming, which requires them to pay attention to anything that could possibly impede uptime.

Lameness is one of the biggest obstacles farmers can face with their animals. This condition restricts movement in a cow’s foot or leg due to inflammation from injury or infection. Eventually, lameness can lead to disabilities, time-consuming treatment and declines in dairy production. Keeping cows healthy and the business profitable involves avoiding lameness and maintaining a regular hoof-trimming regimen.

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Signs and symptoms of lameness

A dairy farmer can tell if a cow is experiencing a bout of lameness by a few tell-tale signs:

  • Arching posture: Similar to the way a human’s shoulders react to stepping on a sharp rock, a cow’s posture alters when it experiences pain from lameness. Typically, the animal tends to arch its back more than normal, which means it may be time to look into extra treatment.

  • Diet changes or weight loss: Sometimes the discomfort of lameness causes a cow to eat less. Diet directly affects milk production, and a farmer should address a weight loss issue immediately in order to keep the cow healthy and profitable.

  • Limping: Just as humans limp when they have a leg or foot injury, animals do the same. If a cow is limping, a dairy farmer needs to get it checked for lameness right away to prevent the condition from worsening.

If a cow is showing any of these signs, it could mean lameness is taking its toll, and farmers should take the necessary steps in treating the condition. Many cases of lameness are linked to improper or infrequent hoof care. In other words, preventing lameness starts and ends with a consistent trimming schedule.

Treatment and prevention

Lameness can lead to heavy consequences if left untreated. The cow’s symptoms can intensify in the form of abscesses, which can lead to culling of the animal and loss in revenue. While lameness has a variety of causes, one of the main ways to avoid and treat it is through regular hoof maintenance.

Every cow should have its hooves trimmed twice a year at least, like a human check-up at the doctor’s office. When cows’ hooves are regularly inspected and repaired, trimmers can catch troublesome issues early and keep cows healthy, comfortable and productive.

If lameness sneaks its way into a dairy farm, there are tactics to get cows back on track. Blocking is a helpful treatment option to use when cows are experiencing pain from lameness. Since a cow is a cloven-toed animal, it has two parts to the hoof. Hoof care professionals can adhere a block on a healthy part to elevate and restrict the inflamed part, giving it space and time to heal. Blocking helps make cows more comfortable and allows them to recover quickly with minimal impact on milk production.

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Rubber blocks provide good traction and cushion the hooves to improve stability. These blocks are ideal for lameness cases caused by weight-bearing lesions because they keep a limping cow from slipping, running into things or other accidents that stem from discomfort that throws the animal off balance.

With an animal’s health as a top priority, dairy farmers can help ensure the productivity of the herd. Keep lameness out by letting proper hoof care in. end mark

Brad Ingram
  • Brad Ingram

  • Midwest Regional Sales Manager and Bovine Hoof Care Expert
  • Vettec Inc.
  • Email Brad Ingram

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