Best foot forward – cattle lameness

July 3, 2022

Entire books and conference schedules are devoted to foot care in dairy cattle and, quite rightly, when the industry is running at an estimated 1 in 5 lame milkers. However, our sucklers, finishers and bulls get less attention than they deserve.

Studies have shown a wide range of interpretations of what lameness looks like on beef units with farmers not considering overgrown and misshapen feet and an abnormal gait as lame. Instead, many farmers only really appreciate that lameness is an indication of pain when severe lesions are present.

Cows walk oddly because they are uncomfortable – that could be because the foot is misshapen and cannot bear weight evenly or because there is an infection between the claws, or deeper within the foot which we can all agree must be painful.

We know around 85% of lameness comes from the foot so if you have the skills and equipment to lift, assess and treat the foot then great, but we are aware that some set ups don’t lend themselves to safely doing this. However, this doesn’t mean that all we can do is give antibiotics and anti-inflammatories and shrug our shoulders. We can confidently state that no antibiotic will sort a nail stuck in the foot!

Foot trimmers are in demand but will attend for individuals and perhaps just as usefully can then go through the group and neaten up any misshapen claws that pre-dispose animals to lameness and help prevent future cases.

If you don’t have a contact for foot trimming, please get in touch, we have a list or we will happily attend a lame animal if they can be restrained safely and appropriately.

Lameness in cattle of whatever shape or size rarely resolves itself and the quicker you intervene the sooner the animal recovers.  Quick treatment will also prevent deeper damage occurring that will ultimately protect against future foot problems.

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