Fo­cus on foot prob­lems in dairy cows

Matamata Chronicle - - Rural Delivery - GER­ALD PIDDOCK

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.

PHOTO: GER­ALD PIDDOCK

Farm vet­eri­nar­ian Neil Ch­ester­ton says that it is never one fac­tor that causes lame­ness among dairy cows.

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