This is a bold statement, but some well-documented research facts about lameness will influence a cow’s overall performance in the herd:
It’s a vicious cycle: The reduction in energy intake often starts before lameness is even detected. This will lead to production drop of up to 50% initially and subsequent reduced production for an average of 28 days following diagnosis of lameness.
A lame cow:
- comes into the shed later
- spends more time on the yard
- spends less time grazing, plus more time lying down
- lower feed intake
- less energy for milk production and cycling
Lameness causes inflammation and the inflammatory process can reduce conception rates by affecting the quality of the corpus luteum, which is the structure on the ovary that sustains pregnancy in the first couple of weeks.
Bull lameness: as above, the inflammatory process impacts the viability of sperm, which means the ability of the bull to get cows in-calf is drastically reduced. Lame bulls should be replaced immediately, as it can take over two months for the sperm numbers to recover.
There are several things you can influence to help reduce the impact of lameness:
- Early detection of lameness: diagnosis (and treatment!) in the early stages limits deterioration and reduces recovery time.
- Treatment: make sure to lift the foot and treat according to findings. If unsure how to do this, ask your vet to look at her or attend our lameness workshop – appropriate treatment is vital.
- Body condition – energy reserves: as mentioned, energy intake is reduced, which means a lame cow will start using her fat and muscle reserves. If she is in good condition (BCS 4.5 or higher), this will have a lower impact on her repro performance. It takes far more time to put condition back on than it took to lose it – ad-lib feed, high ME supplement, and OAD milking can help with condition gain.
- Lame mob: lame cows can be very difficult to detect on heat, so ensure there are some sound cows (not lame) or, better yet, some bulls to help with heat detection and/or insemination of cows on heat.
- Regular hoof trimming can help reduce lameness, as overgrown claws are more likely to result in lameness.
- If you have a problem with lameness on farm, one of our Healthy Hoof advisors can help you identify the risk factors on your farm and make a plan to reduce the prevalence.
So, keep an eye out for lameness and treat any affected cows as soon as possible. If you need help with treatments or diagnosing the risk factors for lameness on your farm, please contact your vet.