News & Advice

Cows feeling the pressure?

Apr 5, 2019 | Dairy, Lameness

Hanneke Officer, Veterinarian, Healthy Hoof Advisor

Have you ever felt the pressure or pain of a stone stuck in your boot; right under that sensitive spot? Or cracks in your heel that cause pain every time you take a step?

When a cow has a ‘normal’ claw, she bears weight evenly across the sole of both claws. If or when she injures her hoof, she will attempt to reduce the pressure on the sensitive spot by taking weight off. She will walk on the back of her hoof if the front is sore and vice versa and also put more weight on the claw on the other side. This results in uneven claw growth, which then pushes the hoof in an unnatural position, creating more uneven growth. Over time, this will show as overgrown feet.

This process doesn’t only occur when a cow is lame. Lay-out of the farm, walking distances, yard pressure and weather conditions can all contribute to a change in weight bearing – this is why most farms will have 20-30% of their herd with overgrown claws. 

Pressure can come in different forms: 

  • Yard pressure: movements of cows to achieve their milking order causes pushing and shoving if there is limited free space 
  • Track pressure: rocks, hard walking surface, congestion areas (sharp corners, underpasses, bridges), hills 
  • Pressure from staff: bringing cows in, backing gate use, presence on the yard at milking 
  • Mating (bulls) 
  • Pregnancy 
  • Milking platform: slippery 
  • Feed pad/herd homes: extra time on a hard surface 

Some of these factors are hard to avoid, which is where management measures become important. Part of the solution is identification of problem areas, the other part is hoof care: regular trimming to maintain a healthy weight bearing surface which will increase resilience to adverse hoof events and help towards lameness prevention.
The pictures above show hoof angles and surface changes before and after hoof trimming – correcting the angle will significantly change the pressure on the soles and wall of the claw. Like changing from roller blades or ice skates to sneakers and changing from flippers to slippers.

For identification of problem areas and risk factors on your farm, talk to your Vet about getting in touch with one of our Healthy Hoof Advisors to make an appointment for a free intro visit.

To correct altered weight bearing in your herd – call Rhonda 027 886 5621 to book our hoof trimmer Stuart to address your cow’s feet prior to dry off.

Share This