News & Advice

Arrange good life support!

May 8, 2019 | Dairy, Dairy Animal Health & Welfare, Lameness

Look at this picture – isn’t it just so cool!

This provides a clue to solving lameness problems.

Last month all our large animal vets were updated with recent lameness research, developments and revelations changing the way we deal with lameness. 

What am I talking about? 

This picture is a cross-section of part of a cow’s life support – her claws are responsible for carrying her life and maintaining balance. I don’t think the reality of this is obvious enough. If we’re talking about a 500 kg cow, one claw will carry 100-125 kg weight whenever a cow is upright (!). In the photo, you will notice a thin layer of germinal cells right on top of the sole. This layer is responsible for the growth of the sole. The sole grows an average 5 mm/month to sustain a sole that is 5-15 mm thick. That is a very thin layer of horn supporting all that weight!

On top of that – pressure from the outside pushing in (e.g. stones, uneven ground etc.) causes more strain on this layer which can compromise its function, leading to inadequate horn production which can then result in thin soles, alterations to the weight bearing surface and ultimately lameness.

Damage to this germinal layer is visible in the form of bruising on the sole or the white line. If you see this, it means this base layer was damaged 2-3 months ago (!) and is now slowly growing out. 

What do we do with this information? 

  • If the germinal layer gets badly damaged, horn growth will stop temporarily – we need to look after this important layer 
  • Detect lame cows at an early stage and treat them straight away by picking the foot up and trimming/treating 
  • Tissue damage causes inflammation: pain relief in the form of anti-inflammatories increases speed of recovery and reduces formation of permanent changes 
  • A hoof block or cow slip will alleviate pressure and provide rest to the damaged structures (as long as the other claw is healthy!) 
  • Trimming claws in (non) lame cows pre-calving will help restore proper weight bearing surface and reduce uneven pressure on the horn forming layer 

Other factors at play: 

  • Low BCS cows are more likely to be lame 
  • Calving affects hoof structures and has particular significance in heifers 

These factors will be discussed in detail in the next newsletter. In the mean time, ask your vet to update you on these findings and discuss the options available to you to minimise factors increasing the incidence of lameness on your farm.

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