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Wet weather causes cows’ feet to be softer, which can lead to an increased risk of bruising from standing on concrete surfaces.

Specialist lameness veterinarian, Sara Pedersen, explains that the transition into housing puts pressure on maintaining foot health. This is due to cows spending more time standing on concrete and increased contact with slurry.

“Although the lameness risk is heightened, housing presents the perfect opportunity to review cow management protocols, including optimising detection and treatment of lameness while cows are indoors,” she says.

“At housing, cows are normally moving from grass to concrete. So, they are suddenly spending more time standing on a harder surface, which puts extra pressure on the feet and can lead to an increased risk of bruising.”

Reduce standing time

“Over time, this bruising can lead to sole ulcers. Reducing standing time and maximising lying down time is key to prevent lameness issues from developing during winter,” Pedersen adds.

She explains the comfort of the surface on which cows lie down is a crucial factor that influences how much time cows spend lying down. “It’s important to check that all cubicles are accessible, any damage is fixed and worn mattresses are repaired.

“Cow management at milking can also be reviewed. If cows are being milked twice daily and spend more than an hour standing for each milking, this can mean too much time spent away from cubicles, which has a knock-on effect on lying down time,” she says. In this situation I’d recommend splitting the group to reduce milking and standing times.”

When cows are housed, it is also the ideal time to review protocols for detecting and treating lameness, and to make sure these work with the wider herd management plans.

“Mobility scoring is important year-round, but it’s worth considering how often your herd is being scored. It should also be worked into the team’s timetable, so it remains an integral part of the routine. Weekly or fortnightly is ideal, as detecting and responding to lameness early gives the best chance for successful treatment.”

Recommendations

For the treatment of bruising, white line and sole ulcers, Pedersen recommends trimming out the lesion, applying a block to the sound claw and using an NSAID to relieve pain and swelling.

“It’s beneficial to use a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, such as Dinalgen, in early cases of lameness to reduce swelling of the soft tissues in the foot. It is thought this can help minimise permanent changes to the pedal bone which are associated with chronic lameness.

“Relieving pain also helps maintain appetite. It can therefore reduce impacts on production while the cow recovers.” – Zana van DIjk, Dairy Global