Lessons on lameness: vigilance and decisive action required - Veterinary Practice
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Lessons on lameness: vigilance and decisive action required

DON’T wait to see lameness, go
looking for it instead and give the
appropriate treatment as soon as you
see signs. These were the main
conclusions from a nationwide series
of workshops about dairy cow
lameness staged by a number of
veterinary practices over the past nine
months, according to veterinary
surgeon Dave Gilbert from the series
sponsor, Pfizer Animal Health.

“The early stage of lameness can
be a bit like an annoying background
noise,” he suggests. “After a time,
farmers and their staff may stop
noticing it’s there unless it suddenly
stops or changes. The milking parlour
vacuum pump or a noisy refrigeration
compressor are good examples.

“One of the main lessons for
farmers attending the workshops was
how familiarity could lead to
acceptance. Unless you’re actively
looking at the way cows walk, you
can simply get used to seeing them
move slightly slower and more
gingerly than usual. Over time, this
can become the norm.

“As a result, investigation may be
delayed until the lameness has
become more serious and more
difficult to treat successfully.”

Yet lameness will rarely self-cure, says Mr Gilbert. By identifying and
investigating cows when they score 1
(imperfect mobility) on the Dairyco
locomotion scale for example, then
giving the appropriate treatment, he
says it is possible to prevent many of
them developing into 2s (impaired),
3s (severely impaired) or even culls.

Otherwise, the downsides of
lameness can be significant:
n average lost production –

  • increase in calving interval – 36-
  • risk of culling – doubled for cows
    lame in first half of lactation;
  • increased workload for farm staff;
  • a major welfare concern; and
  • average cost of one lameness case
    – £323.

To reduce lameness incidence, the
workshops considered two types of
cause: non-infectious and infectious.
Mr Gilbert says a large part of
dealing with the first involves making
cows more comfortable: “Better
cubicles and walking surfaces, less
standing time, timely foot trimming
and good nutrition are critical,” he

“Then reducing infectious causes
– predominantly foul-in-the-foot or
digital dermatitis – involves better
hygiene, cleaner cows, regular foot-
bathing, and timely intervention and

When “foul” is the cause, Mr Gilbert says the recent introduction
of a full course of therapy in a single
injection offers farmers an easy and
effective treatment.

One injection of the ceftiofur
crystalline-free acid-based treatment
(trade name, Naxcel Cattle) is active
for seven days against foul-in-the-
foot pathogens and has a nil milk
withdrawal requirement.

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