There is no doubt about it, this season continues to keep us on our toes with record rainfall across much of the North Island.
Unfortunately, all this rain means that it is not just the humans being kept on their toes this summer – we are also seeing a lot of sore feet in dairy cows. Remember though, rain doesn’t cause lameness directly – it contributes through softening claws, exacerbating existing problems and deteriorating walking surfaces.
Tracks and Races
We can’t talk about lame cows this season without mentioning tracks and races. On many farms, tracks will be under big pressure from high rainfall, and the usual maintenance just hasn’t happened this season either due to the weather, lack of staff and contractors or simply because the budget is being spent elsewhere. To get on top of a lameness issue and to prevent future problems, this job needs to stay on top of the to-do list, to be done as soon as conditions allow. If you are not sure where to focus your efforts, consider getting some advice from one of Anexa’s Healthy Hoof consultants, who can assess the risk points on farm and make recommendations where the biggest impact will be from the dollars you spend. Also, sometimes it is about doing things differently to minimize the prevalence rather than actually spending more money.
What can you do now?
While we have to accept what we cannot change (I’m sorry I can’t tell you how to control the weather!), it is still really important to be proactive to minimise the impact of lameness and reduce the negative effects on cow (and human!) welfare, milk production, reproduction and farm profits.
Here are some ways we can help lessen the impact of the rain to reduce the number of lame cows, and the severity and duration of those cows that do go lame.
Back to Basics
Get the basics right, such as good cow flow and cow management, and you will see an improvement in lameness.
Some key things to think about are (click on individual links for more detailed information):
- Cow flow … allow cows time to find their way as they walk to the shed. Don’t push them too hard – go slowly on the bike and leave the dogs in their kennels.
- Backing gate… overuse or misuse of the backing gate can be a huge contributor to lameness. Be consistent with how all staff use the backing gate. Its primary function is taking up space that has become available as more cows are being milked (not ‘pushing’ up cows).
- Identify lame cows early (i.e. don’t wait for them to get really bad) and put them into the lame mob. Pick up their feet and treat accordingly. Review common lameness lesions if you need a refresher. If you have more lame cows than you can cope with, call for assistance – we are here to help.
- Lame cow treatment – most cows won’t need antibiotics, but many will benefit from long acting pain relief/anti-inflammatory. Don’t forget to apply blocks or cowslips to the sound claw to take the pressure off the painful side. Allow lame cows plenty of time to rest by keeping them in the lame mob until they are fully recovered. Milk them once a day and keep them close to the shed to reduce the distances they need to walk.
- Preventative hoof trimming will help reduce the incidence of lameness. Wear and tear from continuous walking, herd pressures and time on concrete will result in subtle changes that can develop into lameness over time. With softened claws this process can be accelerated. Identifying overgrown claws and getting a qualified hoof trimmer like Hoof It to reset these claws can help prevent lameness as well as improve gait and hoof (and cow!) longevity.
- Keep the surfaces of feed pads and yards as clean as possible to reduce the chances of sole injuries from stones on the concrete.
When to call for help
You don’t have to tackle this problem on your own. We are here to help when you need us, whether that’s treating the lame cows or meeting with you to develop a plan alongside our Healthy Hoof Vets to identify the problem areas on your farm and create a plan for making impactful improvements.
Call us when
- There are too many cows for you to deal with yourself.
- Individual cows are not improving after treatment.
- You can’t identify the cause of lameness when you lift a cow’s foot.
- You would like on-farm training for you or your staff.
- You want to improve the lameness rates on your farm – our Healthy Hoof vets can work with you to identify the areas of risk on your farm and create a solution to manage that risk.
- You would like to book preventative hoof trimming (you can also book on our website).