Focus on foot problems in dairy cows
Poor tracks and impatient workers are the main risk factors causing dairy cows to have lameness.
Hidden underneath those risks, however, are usually multiple reasons that led to foot problems, farm veterinarian Neil Chesterton told farmers at a Small Milk and Supply Herds field day near Otorohanga.
The lameness expert said said there was no worse nightmare on a dairy farm than lameness among a herd.
Lameness is caused by cow hooves being worn down. Once this occurred cows became prone to problems such as white line lesions or footrot.
Many farmers had blamed this season’s wet weather for a large spike in foot problems among cows, but the weather merely exacerbated risks that were already present on farms, he said.
‘‘It’s never one thing - it’s risk factors. Don’t blame one thing for your lameness. It’s multiple little things that add up to a lameness problem.’’
Impatient people caused cows problems because they put pressure on cows. This is easily prevented by having a positive environment in the milking shed, he said.
‘‘The more happy people are in there [the milking shed] ,the less pressure they put on cows out here.’’
Farmers also needed to record data around lameness. If they did not, it made it difficult for professionals to find the solution to the problem. Recording the data helped the farmer and the vet understand the problem, he said.
Host farmer Dave Swney said lameness had been a big challenge on the 127 hectare farm that he contract milks.
Last season he found 260 cases among his herd of 470 cows.
‘‘It just about sent me to the nut house. It was pretty bad.’’
He has managed to half the cases from 137 to 70 in the season so far to the end of October. Several management changes were introduced over the past year.
Rubber mats were installed in the yards and bail area, the herd’s hooves were trimmed twice a year, there was a greater focus on cow nutrition, he changed from 24-hour to 12-hour grazing and switched to once a day milking for his younger cows.
‘‘It’s been a challenge we have wanted to get on top of.’’
Swney said the dairy shed matting cost $20,000.
The multiple changes he made highlighted that it was never a single factor that caused this issue, Chesterton said.
Swney’s farm had hills and this could cause rain to enter main races which cows travelled to and from the shed. The farm had a long narrow shape, meaning lots of walking for the herd to and from milking. They were all risks to cow lameness.
A steep slope on the race also caused issues. Cows did not like walking on a race more than 8 per cent of a slope because it put uneven pressure on their hooves.
Farm veterinarian Neil Chesterton says that it is never one factor that causes lameness among dairy cows.