Identifying risk factors associated with lameness in pasture-based dairy herds

S. Ranjbar, A. R. Rabiee, A. Gunn, and J. K. House - Journal of Dairy Science

Type: Research Paper
Knowledge level: Advanced

Farm Table says:

This study has clear advice and links between certain management risk factors and the association with lameness in dairy herds.

What is the problem?

Lameness is one of the costliest diseases in dairy herds, resulting in reduced milk production, compromised reproductive performance culling mortality. Lameness is also recognized as a significant animal welfare issue. Factors associated with lameness can cow, environmental, management, and nutrition. This study looked to associate these factors with lameness prevalence.

What did the research involve?

Sixty-three pasture-based dairy herds milking 90 cows or more were identified on the eastern coast of NSW. This included both seasonal and non-seasonal calving herds, several farms using feed-pads, and none had facilities for housing cows. Each herd was visited once, and the assessments were undertaken between June 2011 and June 2014. The same observer performed the locomotion scoring (1 – 5) and collected environmental and farm practice information. Statistical analysis was then performed to determine the significance of different risk factors and lameness.

What were the key findings?

The estimated prevalence of lameness was 18.9%. Lameness was largely influenced by cow handling as they are brought up to the dairy and the amount of crowding in the holding yard before milking. The action of cows lifting their head, and pushing sideways was also associated with an increase in the risk of lameness. Lameness prevalence was also associated with rainfall during the 30 d before assessment, available space per cow in the holding yard, the smoothness of concrete surface and the feed pad length.

Final comment

The authors conclude the most cost-effective way to minimize lameness prevalence in a dairy herd is to improve stock handling skills.

2016 - Australia - S. Ranjbar, A. R. Rabiee, A. Gunn, and J. K. House - Journal of Dairy Science
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