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Herd Health

Find information about mastitis, transition cows, vaccination protocols, working with your veterinarian, hoof care and hoof trimming.


Lameness continues to be a major welfare issue for dairy cows. In addition to the reduction in performance, the visual image of lame cows on farms can lead to a negative public perception of dairy farming. A survey in Minnesota found the prevalence of lame cows (those scoring a 3 or greater on a 1-to-5 scale) ranged from 3 to 50 percent on 53 farms.

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Lameness is a common and costly disorder affecting dairy cattle. Freestall housing systems are designed for ease of management but are also associated with a greater risk of hoof injury and disease leading to lameness. For example, the use of concrete floors, zero-grazing and uncomfortable stalls are all well-known risk factors.

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While you are walking around it is not uncommon to get a rock in your shoe or accidentally twist an ankle. We have the luxury of getting our feet quickly inspected to see if something is wrong with them or even switching shoes if they hurt our feet. Cows do not have that luxury and need to have their feet trimmed and maintained to keep them happy on their feet.

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Rising temperatures and increasing precipitation provide a perfect storm for mastitis-causing bacteria.

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Claw lesion identification and recording is a key component of effective lameness reduction programs.

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Published: March 23, 2009 issue of Progressive Dairyman

This 2009 article recently received an increase in online traffic. Scroll down or to jump to the article.

Back then, Dykstra Dairy’s herd manager Eric Van Wyk talked with freelance writer Loretta Sorenson about trimming hooves on the operation’s 3,000 cows. The northwest Iowa farm employs a hoof trimmer who spends 80 percent of his time focused on hoof health.

Because this article was so popular, we asked Van Wyk, “What protocols have you changed in your hoof health program since 2009?”

He says, “We now trim all of the cows at both mid-lactation and at dryoff. We were only trimming at dryoff before and were monitoring hooves on a visual basis. We also purchased a new chute that’s made hoof trimming easier on the cows. Plus, we’re able to get cows trimmed more quickly.”

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Lame cattle are in pain, produce less milk, can take longer to conceive and often have to be culled earlier than they should have been.

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