News & Advice

Act now to prevent lameness

Feb 15, 2024 | Dairy, Lameness

Lameness is stressful – for you and your cows. Identifying and intervening early will benefit your cow’s health and reduce lameness costs (stress, time and lost production).


How will putting a lameness prevention plan in place impact my bottom line?

The financial loss attributed to lameness is multifactorial. Lame cows will not eat as much, resulting in lower milk solids production. This reduction in appetite has a knock-on effect, reducing their body condition score, which will also result in reduced production, reduced fertility, and increased likelihood of culling. Therefore, it is vital that we identify lame cows as soon as possible to keep our herd in top condition and boost productivity. The quicker we can identify and resolve the problem and provide relief, the lower the impact on the cow and the lower the cost to you.

The recent Fonterra Farm insights report indicates that having lame cows could cost you a lot of money. Let’s break it down:

  • Cost per lame cow: the treatment cost of a lame cow starts at $250 depending on how severe the lameness is. A large part of this depends on when you first noticed the lameness eg how long it went undetected for. Recent research in New Zealand has found only 26% of lameness within dairy herds is detected. The other 74% continue into severe lameness by which stage the cost of lameness will be exponentially higher.
  • Average incidence of lameness (how many cows are treated for lameness per season): 14% of your herd might be affected by lameness. (DairyNZ) However, industry targets as set by several milk companies are aiming for lameness prevalence lower than this.
  • Average loss per herd: loss comes from reduction in milk production (at the time of lameness as well as next season due to lower fertility linked to lameness), higher rate of culling for these cows on top of treatment, withhold and labour costs.
  • Total cost for 300 cows: with the incidence previously stated and for example If you have a herd of 300 cows, the total cost of lameness using the DNZ lameness calculator could easily exceed $20,000 annually.

In simpler terms, having lame cows could be a significant financial burden, costing you thousands of dollars each year, especially for larger herds.

You could also see this as an opportunity, for example if lameness costs $20k a year, spending 5 to 10k to reduce prevalence significantly would be well worth it. Hoof trimming and the Healthy Hoof Programme can help with this.


How can we prevent lameness on farms?

One way to prevent lameness on farms is to reduce wear and tear on a cow’s hooves.

Stones, uneven surfaces, cow flow/pressure, sharp corners and distances walked can cause worn, uneven soles and overgrowth. Overgrown hooves can then lead to reduced mobility, injury, altered gait and lameness.

Hoof trimming is becoming commonplace on dairy farms, with many farmers recognising the benefits of hoof trimming to ensure cows have ‘comfortable footwear’. Anexa offers comprehensive hoof trimming services that involves lifting and examining all four feet. We address any issues with overgrown or problematic hooves. The reset helps cows by improving weight distribution and mobility.

Our experienced hoof trimmer will also tend to lame cows efficiently. With his hydraulic crush and professional equipment, it is a lot more comfortable and safe for both cow and handler and all 4 feet will be done in one go.  Should there be any severe cases, these will be referred to a veterinarian.


What do overgrown hooves look like and how do we identify?

When the hooves become too long, the weight-bearing surfaces of the hoof can be changed and unbalanced, and the bones can begin to splay inside the foot. This can cause swelling and the cow will walk unevenly to compensate, affecting mobility and leading to lameness.

Examples of overgrown hooves

The best time to identify at-risk cows is when they are walking slowly across a hard surface, for example, at milking. Identifying at-risk cows takes a bit of practice; Anexa Vets provides a Hoof Check service, where a hoof-care-trained tech can assess the herd, recording and identifying at-risk cows; from here, we will supply a written report with recommendations.


Creating a lameness action plan

Improving lameness incidence can save you time, money, lost production and improve your repro results. There are many risk factors that impact a cow’s vulnerability to lameness, and every farm and herd is unique. We encourage you to work with your vet or one of our Healthy Hoof advisors on a lameness action plan personalized to your farm to make good gains in this area.


Lameness Animal Welfare obligations

A cow’s instinct is to hide pain – once we see a lame cow, we know that she is experiencing a degree of pain that requires rapid treatment, with the Animal Welfare Code dictating the following time frames:

  • Lame cows (score of 2) must be treated within 48 hours
  • Severely lame cows (score 3) must be treated within a day.

Therefore, it is critical that we identify lameness and treat it promptly.

For more information regarding Hoof check, Hoof Trimming or to book an introductory consult with one of our Healthy Hoof Advisors, please have a chat with your vet or contact your local Anexa clinic.


Other articles you may find helpful:

Request a Hoof Trimming or Hoof Check

Improving production from the ground up











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