Sick of lame cows?
This season has been the worst for lame cows that many have experienced. The relentless wet through spring and early summer meant that some farms had huge numbers in their lame mob.
Lame cows are often in a lot of pain, lose weight, struggle to get in calf, have lowered milk production and cost you or your staff time. Lameness is both an animal welfare and production issue and therefore warrants spending time and money on preventing.
Solving serious, long term lame cow issues can sometime require a careful step-by-step investigation by a trained individual. If you have a serious issue you need help with contact the clinic to get one of our Healthy Hoof providers out to your farm. Otherwise here a few simple tips to help prevent lamies:
Let cows take their time on races. I have been to many farms where, looking at the state of their races, you would expect lots of lame cows but because they let the herd(s) move at their own pace they have hardly any lameness. Hurrying cows at the back of the mob with a bike or dog does nothing to speed up cows at the front, will only get the cows to the shed a little sooner and is guaranteed to cause lameness.
Go easy on the backing gate. Use the backing gate to take up space rather than ramming them towards the shed. Allow some space between the last cows and the gate so that cows have space to move about in the collecting yards. Scuffing and turning on the yards when cows are packed too closely together creates white line disease and thin soles. As a rule of thumb if you look out into the yard during milking and see heads sticking up (rather than all the cows being able to keep their heads down) the cows are too closely packed and you will likely get lameness as a result.
Look for bottlenecks, sharp corners and muddy wet holes and sort them out. Sharp corners, places where the race becomes narrower, rough patches of race, big muddy holes or wet areas are all sources of lameness. Cows look at where they put their front feet and then place their back feet in the same spot. If cows have to bunch up (e.g. at sharp corners, narrow races or to avoid bog holes) they don't get a chance to choose their spot and are more likely to get sole injuries. Having to walk through mud holes softens feet and bathes them in nasty bacteria.
Race and shed/collecting yard design can definitely be significant sources of lameness but before you go spending large amounts of money on changing them it would be worth trying the above first.
If you think you do need to work on your races or shed/yard design get a Healthy Hoof provider out to have a look first to make sure you are getting bang for your buck.