When we feel good, we stand tall and take full measure of our stride. The same is true for livestock. However, there may be several different issues gradually at work impacting the health of feet and legs in dairy cattle, beef cattle and swine. In order to catch lameness early before the direct and indirect costs add up, a free, objective and simple observation system has been developed called locomotion scoring.
Lameness has costs in loss of milk production and breeding intervals in the dairy cow, reduced average daily gains in beef cattle, and in sow longevity and production.
The biggest problem in calculating the cost of lameness on a herd basis is knowing the incidence of lameness. A locomotion scoring system can help with recordkeeping related to the lameness incidence, the type of injury or lesion causing the condition, whether it is a new or chronic case, and the effectiveness of the treatment.
D.J. Sprecher at Michigan State University developed and outlined a five-point scoring system in 1997 for dairy cow locomotion scoring, including observation of the cow standing and walking — with special emphasis on the cow’s back posture which is evidence of weight redistribution. Since that time, Kansas State University and Zinpro worked together to modify the scoring for a four-point system for scoring beef cattle lameness, and Zinpro worked with the University of Minnesota in applying the system to score sow lameness, but both still take note of the animal’s back posture and movement.
Research has shown that changes in the spinal curvature have a high correlation with the presence of claw lesions, which can be the first indication of lameness and a signal that treatment should begin before more serious lesions develop. By identifying even slight back arching, you may be able to catch lameness in its initial stages and treat it before more serious lesions develop.
Cow hoof problems and claw lesions may develop from infectious (e.g., wet conditions or poor foot hygiene) or non-infectious factors (e.g., overcrowding or prolonged standing). In either case, once lameness develops past the first two levels of the locomotion scoring, it typically will only get worse and threaten the animal’s health more.
Whether you are scoring lameness in swine, beef cattle or dairy cows, the situation for locomotion scoring has common elements across all species:
Here are common signs that indicate there is lameness in the herd. The more severe the expression of these signs, the higher the number in the locomotion scoring system:
Learn more about the Zinpro First Step®: Dairy Lameness Assessment and Prevention Program, Step-Up® Management Program for Beef Cattle and the Feet First® Swine Lameness Prevention program to help assess lameness issues in your animals.