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3 minute read

Detect Lameness in Cows Early and Improve Dairy Cow Reproduction Performance

Dairy cows in the holding area.
Dr. George Xu

Dairy Nutritionist
Zinpro Corporation

Early lameness detection has a positive impact not only on a cow’s overall health and wellness, but also on its reproduction performance and profitability. Research indicates that lameness has the largest impact on increasing the average number of days that a cow is open when compared to retained placenta, mastitis and ovarian cysts.

Many dairy producers assume that lame cows show fewer signs of estrus, but research has shown that lameness changes the timing and behavior of estrus more than the incidence of estrus itself. Research indicates that mildly lame cows actually ovulate earlier but show signs of estrus later than cows that are not lame. Each additional day open costs dairy producers between $2 and $6 USD per day.

Lameness can also be associated with an increased culling rate. Cows with a locomotion score of 3 were 8.4 times more likely to be culled from the herd. According to the National Animal Health Monitoring Service (2007), the average dairy reports a 16 percent culling rate due to lameness and a 26 percent culling rate due to reproductive failure. However, it is possible that in a large portion of animals culled due to reproductive failure, the reproductive failure was actually due to lameness.

Early Detection Key to Cow Hoof Problems

Making early detection of lameness in cows a priority on the dairy can help minimize its effect on health and cow reproduction performance. By training employees on the dairy to use locomotion scoring to help detect lameness early, producers can identify claw lesions at a milder stage before they become acute, painful and costly problems.

Research shows when cows are lame and first treated after five weeks, they only have a 25 percent recovery rate and a 40 percent risk of culling. In contrast, when cows are lame and treated after only one week, they have a 91 percent recovery rate and just an 18 percent risk of culling. This demonstrates the benefit of early lameness detection and claw lesion identification on cow reproduction performance and herd culling risk.

Be Proactive in Detecting Lameness in Cows

Dairy producers can implement a lameness reduction program by regularly assessing cows, inspecting their feet and scheduling regular hoof trimming protocols.

Additionally, feeding performance trace minerals, like Availa®Dairy and Availa®4, to your dairy cow nutrition plan can also aid in minimizing lameness. The unique, proprietary combination of zinc, manganese, copper and cobalt helps decrease the incidence and severity of common claw lesions.

Learn more about preventing lameness in dairy cattle through the First Step®: Dairy Lameness Assessment and Prevention Program or contact a Zinpro representative today.

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