News & Advice

Megan Clemance, Anexa Vets Raglan

Did you know Lame cows over mating have begun the lameness process over calving, this is due to… 

  • The Calving Effect,  The Calving Effect – when ligaments and connective tissues are relaxed to allow the calf through the pelvis, the tissues in the foot relax too (they are just like those in the pelvis). This relaxation can cause instability in the foot, and take up to 3 weeks to go back to normal. 
  • The  depletion of the 3 fat pads in the hoof claw  – all cows go into a negative energy balance after calving which leads to absorption of available fat reserves. The fat pads are responsible for the even distribution of pressure across the claw, creating a buffer to absorb pressure. No buffer = extra pressure = greater likelihood of injury. 
  • More wear and tear  due to increased walking on races as well as pushing and shoving on hard surfaces in the shed and on the feedpad. 
  • Hoof horn grows at 5 – 6mm per month, so  deep tissue damage does not appear on the surface for 2 – 3 months. 
  • Inflammation plays a big part in the development and severity of hoof lesions. 
What can you do now to help… 
  • Look after your cows feet over calving especially the young ones:  first lifetime lameness is the biggest risk factor for repeat lameness. 
  • Remove a lame cow from the herd,  put her on once a day, don’t make her walk too far. 
  • Treat lameness early so the condition doesn’t become chronic  – e.g. The P3 (the bone in the cow’s foot closest to the ground) bone develops boney changes just like the heel spurs of a long distance runner. 
  • Next year,  train your cows to become accustomed to a bit of walking and pushing before calving. 
  • Keep their energy levels up,  especially if they have not eaten well over calving –  give them a starter drench,  daily if they are still not eating properly. Ketol is also beneficial when a cow is in negative energy balance. 
  • Give anti-inflammatories  (i.e. Metacam or Ketomax) early in the lameness to decrease the amount of inflammation and decrease the ongoing effects of that inflammation; this also serves to decrease the pain which will help increase feed intake. 
  • Record all of your cows that go lame  (not just those that receive medication) – In your dairy diary or on Farmacy: – cow number, leg, claw, how long in lame mob, treatments. 
  • Lameness score your herd  – how many are truly score zero eg. non affected? 
  • Get lame  (and previously lame) cows  hoof trimmed before mating. 
  • Pay attention to cow claws during milking  – an estimated 25-30% of each herd will have overgrown claws. Overgrown claws can cause a cow to distribute weight awkwardly while walking, increasing the risk of lameness. Get these seen to early to prevent overgrown claws leading to lameness. 

A New Zealand study of 463 cows in one herd found that a lame cow is 22% less likely to conceive at any mating, and takes 12 days longer to get in calf.  Lameness in a dairy herd can cost greatly in production and reproduction and culls. Look after your cows, and they will look after you.

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