Reducing Lameness in Dairy Housing

The true cost of lameness

There is a growing awareness of the importance of controlling lameness in dairy herds. As in the case of most production diseases the causes of the problem is likely to be multifactorial.

The incidence of lameness and the lesions associated with lameness varies widely between each management system, for example between pasture and dairy cows housed for the winter period and a large part of the year.

Indoor concrete surfaces of milking yards and sheds can be abrasive, particularly in the case where an effort has been made to keep the surface rough to minimize cows slipping. Unfortunately a combination of this roughness and moisture leads to excessive hoof wear.

A major cause of lameness in yards is caused by small stones and sand being brought into the yard from pasture and roadways.

Poorly designed farm yards with a lot of right angled turns leads to cows pivoting and twisting which causes extra pressure on the outside claw which in turn leads to lameness.

Excessive use of electrified backing gates forces cows to compact at the back of the yard, to lift their heads and move from side to side. They try to push forward reducing the cows ability for planned hoof placement and hoof injury can result.

Likewise when cows are being encouraged into the milking area they can swerve away from the operator causing hoof injury.

Rubber matting which is placed in key areas around the farm yard, will greatly help to offset the effect of hard concrete surfaces. Cows are more sure footed when they walk on rubber and their actual step length increase to that of walking on grass.

Rubber with a good profile offers the grip of grooved concrete without the harmful effects to the claw. As well as helping to prevent and reduce lameness, rubber also offers cushioned flooring to cows that are old, with poor walking gait and existing lame cows. When lame cows walk on rubber flooring the recovery period is reduced.

There is no doubt that the strategic use of rubber in the collecting yard, on the milking platform, at the feed face and around the crush area will greatly reduce the amount of lameness, speed up milking time, reduce vet bills and increase production.