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Ireland

Lameness

Reduce your Costs, Increase your Profit

How can you reduce your costs and increase your profit? Quite simply, if you have a lameness problem-tackle it! It is a very common problem on Irish farms with the average incidence in dairy cows between 20-55%.

Herds with an incidence of over 15%, i.e. 15 new lameness cases per hundred cows every year are considered to have a lameness problem that warrants systematic investigation. Such problem herds would benefit from implementing a herd health lameness plan, as part of an overall Herd Health Plan.

Lameness in cattle can arise as a result of several possible causes such as:

  • Laminitis - an inflammation of the sensitive horn-producing area of the foot:
  • White Line Disease – resulting from penetration of the sole at the junction with the wall by sharp material(s), for example stones, chips, nails:
  • Sole Ulceration – caused by abnormal weight distribution on the foot and may be a sequel to laminitis. Frequently seen in bulls, it is also a significant problem in dairy cows 2 – 4 months post calving:
  • Mortellaro (Digital Dermatitis) – a contagious condition appearing as a red sore that develops between the claws:
  • Foul-in-the-foot or Footrot – precipitated by wet and/or unhygienic conditions, not only with housed cattle but also at pasture during the summer months.

Lameness in dairy cows has a significant impact both in terms of animal welfare and farm productivity.

It is the herdsman's responsibility to ensure that animals do not suffer unnecessarily. As many as half of all lameness cases go undetected or untreated, causing these animals unnecessary pain. Apart from the welfare aspect of this disease, lameness also has many other consequences.  In particular, the constant pain associated with lameness puts continuous stress on the cow, which depresses the cow's immune system, leading to an increase in the incidence and severity of other diseases.

The main costs associated with a lameness problem are:

  • Reduction in milk yield due to reduction in feed intake and general ill-health (65% of economic loss)
  • Withholding milk following antibiotic treatment
  • Reduced fertility: lame cows are less likely to hold to first service (5%)
  • Premature culling: (8%)
  • Extra labour: (10%)

The average cost per lame cow is €293[1]. This figure comprises of treatment costs and production losses associated with the average lame cow.

Cows suffering from infectious foot conditions such as contagious digital dermatitis or slurry heel require prompt antibiotic therapy to treat the individual cow and to prevent further spread of the disease within the herd.

Using an antibiotic that is both effective and efficient is imperative in treatment and control of lameness in dairy herds.

Talk to your vet about using an effective antibiotic, with a zero milk withdrawal, licensed for the treatment of infectious foot conditions in dairy cows.

[1] Ryan, E.G. & O'Grady, L.E. (2004) The economics of infectious and production diseases in dairy herds. Herd Health Planning published by Veterinary Ireland