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Healthy Hooves

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Liz Cork

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21 December 2020

Healthy Hoof programme focuses on the prevention of lameness, providing information and training that will have a positive impact on your cows' health, your staff and your bottom line.

Lameness is a major economic and welfare concern around the world, and NZ based systems are no exception. Whilst kiwi cows don’t spend the majority of their days standing on concrete, they can have big distances to walk and their feet still go through the same stressors during a normal milking. With the Healthy Hoof programme, we focus on the prevention of lameness with information and training on management and treatment. This will minimise the impacts of lameness on your cows, your staff and your budget.

It may seem like doing a couple of lame cows a day isn’t a big deal, however, they soon add up. Research based on New Zealand farms has shown that an annual incidence of >25% indicates a major lameness problem. This means that on a 600 cow farm, if you average more than 3 lame cows a week throughout the season you will fall into this category. Studies in NZ have also shown that it is achievable for South Island farms to have an annual lameness incidence of <10% (<60 cows lame in the season for a 600 cow herd). At an average cost of $500/case, lameness can quickly become a major drain on your farm’s profitability margins - at 25% incidence this equates to a whopping $75,000/annum.

The only way to determine your lameness status is to record every lame cow. This doesn’t mean just recording cows that receive antibiotics or anti-inflammatories, but every single lame cow you detect. Which should be equivalent to the number of lame cows whose feet are picked up, as every lame cow should have their foot lifted to determine the cause of lameness.

If you have MINDA set up on your phone, this is the best place to record lame cows with the most common types of lameness set up as ‘quick events’ for added speed. Otherwise, the Dairy NZ Healthy Hoof app is a great option for cow-side recording. It allows you to enter your farm details and then record ‘point of pain’ against a tag number, which correlates to the type of lameness e.g. white line disease, sole ulcer etc. You can get reports of this data emailed to you which show the number of lame cows treated, which feet are affected and the type of lameness. The type of lameness that occurs most frequently on your farm, tells us a lot about the possible reasons for a high incidence and provides clues to help identify what factors are contributing the most to the lameness on your farm.

Once a lameness problem has been identified, the next step is determining the risk factors specific to your farm and finding workable solutions to help reduce future lameness. This is where the Healthy Hoof programme really comes into play. Through visiting your farm and assessing the infrastructure, laneways, milking practices and stock handling we are able to identify key lameness risk factors specific to your farm. We will then meet with you and your team to find viable solutions to limit these factors. Alongside this, we will provide training for you and/or your staff in areas of lameness prevention and treatment.

VetSouth has several Healthy Hoof providers available to help you out with your lameness problems, so reach out to us today to discuss your options.

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